Sandro Magister rapped over the knuckles by Cardinal Kasper

There is an old journalistic saying “publish and be damned”. That seems to be the motto of Sandro Magister on his website

On Monday he published an excellent article reporting on the current state of Catholic-Orthodox dialogue. As the superlative journalist that he is, he sought to give “all the facts” and original sources for his story, including the working document for the current round of discussions of the Joint Coordinating Committee for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. This document, written by Aghios Nikolaos of Crete, is the basis for discussion of this very sensitive topic by the dialogue group, working under the joint chairmanship of Cardinal Kapser and Metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas of Pergamum. Its existence was reported by Zenit last October. I immediately searched the net for it back then, but was disappointed to find that it was unavailable for consultation.

Imagine my delight then (and probably the delight of many ecumenists around the world and the equal horror of many who oppose the talks currently underway) when Magister made this document available – in English – on his website. It is an excellent round up of the first millenium situation, and raises many issues that I am sure will provide fruitful dialogue.

Not all were so delighted. The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity “were not amused”, and issued a press statement to say so:

“The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has learned with disappointment that a media outlet has published a test currently being examined by the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

“The document published is a draft text consisting of a list of themes to be studied and examined in greater depth, and has been only minimally discussed by the said commission.

“In the last meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, held in Paphos, Cyprus, last October, it was specifically established that the text would not be published until it had been fully and completely examined by the Commission.

“As yet there is no agreed document and, hence, the text published has no authority or official status.”

To his credit, Magister published this statement as a post-script update to his article. To date, however, he has not taken it off his site.

As long as the PCPCU’s statement that this is not an “agreed document” and hence “the text published has no authority or official status” is kept in mind, I see no danger in its publication. As I said, it is an excellent summary of the topic, factual (as far as I can tell) in all its details.

We on this blog of course pray for the success of the talks and that one day we will have an “agreed document” to share.

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11 Responses to Sandro Magister rapped over the knuckles by Cardinal Kasper

  1. Kiran says:

    For once I share Cardinal Kasper’s concerns. The Orthodox are notoriously skittish over things, and (to make a simple observation of fact) they can sometimes be internally divided as to ecumenical matters, as can we. Zizioulas in particular has come under attack from a variety of quarters within the Orthodox world. If they haven’t reached agreement, then they haven’t, and it should be respected, lest it prevent the very thing that the dialogues are meant to achieve.

  2. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    “In the last meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, held in Paphos, Cyprus, last October, it was specifically established that the text would not be published until it had been fully and completely examined by the Commission.”

    That’s pretty clear there. You saying it’s OK to publish anyway as long as you see no danger in it? Private judgement trumps “it was specifically established”? You some kind of liberal or something?

  3. Son of Trypho says:

    All of the content of the text is knowledge/interpretation that is easily accessible to informed Christians and/or interested observers so there really is nothing particularly controversial about the content.

    What they are trying to do is frame it in a way that doesn’t offend anyone’s sensibilities.

    This is something that might be difficult to achieve as all of the Orthodox groups have their own disagreements/issues/agendas that they will be pushing.

    The delay in publication is for the benefit of the Orthodox, not Catholics – I suspect that if they are genuinely seeking a reunion it would be better to approach 1 particular Orthodox group and negotiate a settlement with that one. Then move to the next one etc.

    As it stands, I’m sceptical about Orthodox intentions primarily because they are national-interest churches (with all the politics that entails) who have little interest in serious external consideration/supervision of their religious policies and/or politics.

    • Schütz says:

      “genuinely seeking a reunion it would be better to approach 1 particular Orthodox group and negotiate a settlement with that one. Then move to the next one etc.”

      OOOOh no, no, no, no… That’s what the Orthodox call “Uniatism”!!! It’s all or nothing. We must treat the Orthodox as they wish to be treated – as one undivided Church – no matter what it might look like to us!

      • Son of Trypho says:

        But they aren’t one undivided Church so why pretend that they are?

        Negotiations based on false premises don’t bode well for long term success.

  4. Kiran says:

    Son of Trypho, I think there are genuine voices seeking reunion with the Orthodox, and I think there is much that they have to offer us (and vice versa), liturgically, spiritually, and otherwise. I think also that what I have read (which admittedly is not much) of the Orthodox shows them to be well aware of the national interest/particularity factor, and seeks to move away from it towards Episcopacy as the uniting principle of the Church. In other words, the Orthodox don’t want to be national interest Churches, and insofar as they are, they regard it as an unfortunate occurrence.

    • matthias says:

      Its about time the Orthodox started moving away from the national interest Churches that they have become. The Holy Cross Mission in Spring street melbourne ,says on its website words to the effect that “The best gift we can give to our nation (and the world) is the message of hope and salvation. This can only be achieved by using the language and culture of the nation we find ourselves in. Lest by adhering to a foreign language and culture, we isolate people or shut them out of the Kingdom, by imposing upon them the Faith in an incomprehensible language.”
      Episcopacy may be closer than we think!!??

    • Son of Trypho says:


      I have no doubt that they may well be able to provide us with some very good insights in the areas you mention.

      The sceptic in me must ask however is the move from national-churches to episcopacy motivated by the fact that the orthodox groups have effectively declined into insignificance as a religious force in the world today (aside from precisely the few nations which constitute the majority of their members)?

      I think their only long term hope for sustainability is some form of union with Rome or a massive and sustained effort at evangelising the Middle East.

      • Kiran says:

        Well, yes and no. On the other hand, there are thriving Orthodox populations in the US, Australia, England and elsewhere in Europe. Regarding Uniatism, it must also be observed that the Orthodox also operate in the west. So, it is something that needs to be discussed about in this context.

  5. Schütz says:

    [Here are William Tighe’s comments that he sent to his general mailing list today. I republish them here with his permission:]

    As to the [working document], and speaking only as a historian, I think it a remarkably good statement of the facts, and especially paragraphs 16-22 and 23-28. But I will make two comments.

    First, para. 26, on the Council of Sardica. I don’t like the phrase “originally was intended to be an ecumenical council,” since there was no concept of “an ecumenical council” at the time, not until the Council of Ephesus (which was consciously seen, after it had completed its work, by its defenders as doing in its day what Nicaea had done in its, a century previousy) in 431: what is today reckoned as the second ecumenical council, the Council of Constantinople I in 381, was summoned neither as an “ecumenical council” — even using “ecumenical” as meaning “empire-wide” rather than “authoritative” — nor as an “eastern” council, as it included bishops only from the region of Constantinople and the region of Antioch, and places in between; and its was not accepted as an ecumenical council by Rome until 534 and by Alexandria (both its Orthodox and its anti-Chalcedonian patriarchates) until later still. Sardica was intended to be a “great synod” — “ecumenical” in the sense of empire-wide in its attendance, perhaps — but in fact when the bishops reached Sardica the Western bishops met as one synod of about 100 bishops (this is the one mentioned in the document) and the Eastern bishops as one of about 85 (which took a strongly anti-Nicene stance), and each one anathematized the other.

    Second, concerning this paragraph:

    21. In a somewhat similar way, the West did not reject the idea of the Pentarchy (cf. above, n. 13) – indeed it carefully observed the taxis of the five major sees, Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, around which the five patriarchates of the ancient Church developed (cf. Ravenna document, n. 28). However, the West never gave the same significance to the Pentarchy as a way of governance of the Church as the East did.

    One would wish for a little more chronological precision: both of its sentences are true, in general, and after 534 (cf. my previous comment), although it was anything but true for the preceding century, when Rome, in annulling Canon 28 of Chalcedon, rejected the “patriarchal pretensions” of both Constantinople and Jerusalem. Subsequently, Rome “observed” it, for the most part (“carefully” may be stretching it a bit), but “never gave the same significance” should probably be read as “gave little significance.”

    It is an interesting document; who knows what will come of it.


  6. Vjacheslav says:

    Hi all,

    Interesting discussion, David thanks for the opportunity to look at this document leakage through eyes of catholics.

    Do you have any idea why Sandro leaked this text now, and not before Cyprus session? It is quite clear the document was already prepared before 2009 Cyprus conference.

    Maybe the leakage was prompted by Vatican’s curia? There could be some political dividends to Vatican in anticipation of Vienne Conference of October 2010…

    I live in Russia and probably you can say I am one of those people opposed to Orthodox – Catholic talks. (Personally I believe there is nothing to discuss – we have too many different dogmats, like filioque, Mary’s conception aspects, Holy energeia etc.) There is no way to unity other than some of the Eastern orthodox will abandon their faith and convert to catholic church. But then they will simply become catholics, which happened many times in history (and it also happened vice versa).

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