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Has this paper [christendom-awake.org], by Fr Aidan Nichols, OP, been discussed here before?

I could not find it when I did a search of the forum, so I assume not.

In any case, it is unedited - and so a bit rough - but, as with pretty much everything Nichols writes, it is well worth our time.

So let us read and discuss.

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Okay. In the hope of generating at least some interest in the paper, let me offer a few tantalising paragraphs.

Quote
1. [...] In the more than five hundred years since the collapse of the Florentine Union, Orthodox and Catholics had had time to practise yet more polemics against each other, to coarsen their images of each other, and also to add (especially from the Orthodox side) new bones of doctrinal contention though in one case, the definition in 1870 of the universal jurisdiction and doctrinal infallibility of the Roman bishop, the dismay of the Orthodox was of course entirely predictable, as was pointed out by several Oriental Catholic bishops at the First Vatican Council.

We find for instance such influential Orthodox thinkers as the Greek lay theologian John Romanides attacking the Western doctrine of original sin as heretical, thus rendering the Latin Marian dogma of the Immaculate Conception - Mary's original righteousness - superfluous if not nonsensical. Or again, and this would be a point that exercised those responsible for the official dialogue of the last fifteen years, some Orthodox now wished to regard the pastoral practice whereby many local churches in the Latin West delay the confirmation (or chrismation) of children till after their first Holy Communion as based on a gravely erroneous misjudgment in sacramental doctrine. [...]

2. [...] It is in this final perspective that one should consider the role of the Roman bishop as a 'universal primate' in the service of the global communion of the churches. One of the most loved titles of the Western Middle Ages for the Roman bishop was universalis papa, and while one would nor wish to retrieve all aspects of Latin ecclesiology in the high mediaeval period, to a Catholic Christian the universal communion of the local churches in their multiple variety does need a father in the pope, just as much as the local church itself, with its varied congregations, ministries and activities, needs a father in the person of the bishop.

It is often said that such an ecclesiology of the papal office is irredeemably Western and Latin, and incapable of translation into Oriental terms. I believe this statement to be unjustified. Just as a patriarch, as regional primate, is responsible for the due functioning of the local churches of in
his region under their episcopal heads, so a universal primate is responsible for the operation of the entire episcopal taxis or order, and so for all the churches on a worldwide scale. [...]

3. [...] The animosity, indeed the barely contained fury, with which many Orthodox react to the issue of Uniatism is hardly explicable except in terms of a widespread and not readily defensible Orthodox feeling about the relation between the nation and the Church.

There must be, after all, some factor of social psychology or corporate ideology which complicates this issue. Bear in mind that the Orthodox have felt no difficulty this century in creating forms of Western-rite Orthodoxy, for example in France under the aegis of the Rumanian patriarchate or more recently in the United States under the jurisdiction of an exarch of the patriarch of Antioch. And what are these entities if not Orthodox Uniatism - to which the Catholic Church has, however, made no objection.[...]

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The paper looks well worth a discussion. So who would like to discuss it? I don't feel like just talking to myself.

Fr. Serge

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Originally Posted by Slavophile
Okay. In the hope of generating at least some interest in the paper, let me offer a few tantalising paragraphs.

Quote
1. [...] In the more than five hundred years since the collapse of the Florentine Union, Orthodox and Catholics had had time to practise yet more polemics against each other, to coarsen their images of each other, and also to add (especially from the Orthodox side) new bones of doctrinal contention though in one case, the definition in 1870 of the universal jurisdiction and doctrinal infallibility of the Roman bishop, the dismay of the Orthodox was of course entirely predictable, as was pointed out by several Oriental Catholic bishops at the First Vatican Council.

We find for instance such influential Orthodox thinkers as the Greek lay theologian John Romanides attacking the Western doctrine of original sin as heretical, thus rendering the Latin Marian dogma of the Immaculate Conception - Mary's original righteousness - superfluous if not nonsensical. Or again, and this would be a point that exercised those responsible for the official dialogue of the last fifteen years, some Orthodox now wished to regard the pastoral practice whereby many local churches in the Latin West delay the confirmation (or chrismation) of children till after their first Holy Communion as based on a gravely erroneous misjudgment in sacramental doctrine. [...]

2. [...] It is in this final perspective that one should consider the role of the Roman bishop as a 'universal primate' in the service of the global communion of the churches. One of the most loved titles of the Western Middle Ages for the Roman bishop was universalis papa, and while one would nor wish to retrieve all aspects of Latin ecclesiology in the high mediaeval period, to a Catholic Christian the universal communion of the local churches in their multiple variety does need a father in the pope, just as much as the local church itself, with its varied congregations, ministries and activities, needs a father in the person of the bishop.

It is often said that such an ecclesiology of the papal office is irredeemably Western and Latin, and incapable of translation into Oriental terms. I believe this statement to be unjustified. Just as a patriarch, as regional primate, is responsible for the due functioning of the local churches of in
his region under their episcopal heads, so a universal primate is responsible for the operation of the entire episcopal taxis or order, and so for all the churches on a worldwide scale. [...]

3. [...] The animosity, indeed the barely contained fury, with which many Orthodox react to the issue of Uniatism is hardly explicable except in terms of a widespread and not readily defensible Orthodox feeling about the relation between the nation and the Church.

There must be, after all, some factor of social psychology or corporate ideology which complicates this issue. Bear in mind that the Orthodox have felt no difficulty this century in creating forms of Western-rite Orthodoxy, for example in France under the aegis of the Rumanian patriarchate or more recently in the United States under the jurisdiction of an exarch of the patriarch of Antioch. And what are these entities if not Orthodox Uniatism - to which the Catholic Church has, however, made no objection.[...]

The paper, to judge from what you have quoted seems rather bitter about the Orthodox and it would be an uphill battle for Orthodox to discuss it since the playing field is uneven from the outset. frown

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I don't think you would find it so if you read the whole thing, Father Ambrose.

I have no interest in seeing the Orthodox unfairly represented, so I was interested to read Aidan Nichols - whose work and thought is highly regarded by Catholics and Orthodox alike, and whose doctoral work was on Bulgakov (if I remember correctly) - expressing an idea about Orthodoxy I am not sure sits well with me.

I only quoted those paragraphs to entice people into following the above link and reading the whole paper. Now I would be especially interested to see what comes of it.

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I don't have time to discuss now. But I've seen it before, and I'll hopefully have time to make some comments soon.

One thing: I wish he wouldn't quote Romanides. I know some people take him to be a key standard bearer for an anti-Latin confession, but I know serious Orthodox who aren't so keen on his work. Christos Yannaras is one (ref: his book "Orthodoxy and the West"). Speaking just for myself, I turned off when I started reading about "Romans vs. Franks" in a polemic based off of (at best) a high school level of historical scholarship. And I say this as someone whose family lived in the Eastern Roman empire and who can find (decidedly minor) personalities of that Empire who share the same family name.

Father Nichols will also find plenty of Greek Catholics who aren't keen on the present Latin practices on the sacrament of confirmation - though of course we wouldn't turn it into a confessional dividing line.

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Originally Posted by Slavophile
I don't think you would find it so if you read the whole thing, Father Ambrose.

Fair enough! smile

I was judging his approach and understanding of Orthodoxy from the extracts you presented to us.

I did an inward groan and thought - oh lordie it's Adrian Fortescue in a new body. eek

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Originally Posted by Hieromonk Ambrose
Originally Posted by Slavophile
I don't think you would find it so if you read the whole thing, Father Ambrose.

Fair enough! smile

I was judging his approach and understanding of Orthodoxy from the extracts you presented to us.

I did an inward groan and thought - oh lordie it's Adrian Fortescue in a new body. eek

I've begun reading it, and it looks like only the most controversial portions were (intentionally) cited by the OP. The main point of the paper seems to be more about why the Catholic Church needs the Orthodox. Could be an interesting read.

Peace and God bless!

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In the cause of the unity that Christ himself desires for the Church, it not us who? in not now when?
May God hasten the day!
Stephanos I
I generally find his writings very sound. It would be interesting if he wrote a whole book on the question of reunion.

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I, for one, find the Latin practice of routinely communing children at 6 and confirming them years later at best bizarre and at worst deeply disturbing. This is certainly not a practice of the first millennium church and can't be considered a newly, drummed up complaint of the Orthodox. The problem became more serious in the 20th century when Pope St. Pius X dropped the age of first communion.

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If it is any consolation, so does the Latin Church, at least where its leading theologians are concerned. The Second Vatican Council called for restoration of the integrity of the Rites of Initiation, including their proper order and significance. This has, alas, been one of the Council's signal failures, as neither infant communion nor the proper order of baptism-confirmation-Eucharist have not been restored.

In fact, in many dioceses, the age of confirmation has been pushed back into the late teens in order to keep kids coming to church longer. That is, they are using the sacrament to hold children hostage, which probably doesn't do much to improve the image of the Church in their eyes. Nonetheless, I have heard a number of religious educators say that only the promise of confirmation keeps parents bringing their children to Mass.

Furthermore, it is not entirely clear that the majority of the Latin faithful--or the clergy, for that matter--clearly understand the purpose of confirmation; one Latin theologian called it "a sacrament in search of a meaning". For most people, it is, quite simply, a rite of passage, a coming of age ritual, "Catholic Bar-Mitzvah", the purpose of which is to transfer wealth to the teenager from his extended family.

A number of bishops are finally taking note of this problem, and moving the age of confirmation back closer to first communion, though I do not think any have, as of now, put confirmation after baptism and before communion, let alone restored infant communion, which is the Tradition of the undivided Church both East and West.

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So, in the West would you like to see Baptism at 8-40 days after birth (not a set of hard numbers here anytime close to the birth of the child will do) then Confirmation at age 5 or 6 and First Communion at 7 or 8? This practice of separating the Sacraments is by some accounts from the Council of Trent and in others as far back as the 4th Lateran Council.

I have read over and over that Confirmation was pushed back to allow the contact with the bishop again, as in the Early Church the bishop was the one who administered all 3 Sacraments to every one.

Or would you like to see all 3 Sacraments administered on the day of Baptism?

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I would like to see restoration of the ancient Tradition of the united Church of the first millennium: baptism, chrismation and Eucharist administered at one moment for all catechumens regardless of age, and all the initiated receiving communion on a regular basis.

If bishops feel they cannot accommodate the needs of the faithful regarding the sacrament of confirmation, then they should surrender their role as exclusive minister of the sacrament. But, since they have already habitually delegated everything else, they hang onto it for dear life, to prove that they have some sort of essential role.

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An elderly Spanish Benedictine monk from the only OSB Abbey of men in Australia told me that when he was born (my guess is about the time of WWI) in Burgos he was baptised in the parish church and taken the same day to the Cathedral to be confirmed by the Bishop. That was the practice then. He said he could recall the first seats to be put into churches in Burgos and the custom of giving out blessed bread at the end of the Mass. It was a very different from current practices there today.

It is not unusual for the bishop in Australia to delegate Monsignors & Abbots to do confirmation in their place. I think most Bishops try to do this themselves though.

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Given the size of modern Roman Catholic dioceses, the bishops are going to have to make a choice between preserving their ancient prerogative or providing for the spiritual well being of their faithful. So far, prerogative has won, hands down, perhaps because the bishops themselves do not really understand the issue.

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