Christopher Orr said in the combox of the previous post regarding points of difference between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches:
I’m sure the effort would be made to work out these lesser points of difference if the major points were seriously close to being resolved, but they are not [and] so the major and minor points remain a jumble and [are] used to indicate paradigmatic differences that may not be essential. Papal Supremacy, universal jurisdiction and the filioque (I think the first two are the big ones, though many would also argue for the third, too) get mixed up with mandatory clerical celibacy, unleavened bread, shaving, the rosary, the use of imagination in prayer and changes to the traditional Roman Rite.
This is right, and I appreciate the fact that the “big ones” have been identified as these three. However, I would like to suggest that in fact these issues may be resolved if first our Orthodox dialogue partners took us seriously when we say that we believe that our faith is the same.
Note that the recent Catholic/Orthodox meeting which has just concluded in Ravenna was on the topic of “The Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority in the Church.” Note the way that this topic is worded–in terms of consequences of what is considered an agreed matter, namely “the Sacramental nature of the Church”. It is natural that this discussion will be followed at the next meeting with a discussion of “The role of the Bishop of Rome in the communion of the Church in the first millennium”, since the issue of the primacy is an ecclesiological issue.
Now, if what I have just said is true (about the primacy of the Bishop of Rome being an ecclesiological view) and if we sincerely believe (as I do) that we fundamentally share the same ecclesiology (albeit with strikingly different nuances), then surely there is hope for reconciliation on the matter of the Primacy and Jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome.
Yes, there were some very blunt anathemas thrown around at the 1st Vatican Council (see here and here and here and here for eg.). However, I believe that these texts, like the 1054 mutual excommunications, need to be treated in the light of the Joint Declaration of Paul VI and Athenagorus I in 1965. Certainly, Pope John Paul II’s gesture in “Ut Unim Sint” applies to this situation:
As Bishop of Rome I am fully aware…that Christ ardently desires the full and visible communion of all those Communities in which, by virtue of God’s faithfulness, his Spirit dwells. I am convinced that I have a particular responsibility in this regard, above all in acknowledging the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of the Christian Communities and in heeding the request made of me to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation.
…When addressing the Ecumenical Patriarch His Holiness Dimitrios I, I acknowledged my awareness that “for a great variety of reasons, and against the will of all concerned, what should have been a service sometimes manifested itself in a very different light. But…it is out of a desire to obey the will of Christ truly that I recognize that as Bishop of Rome I am called to exercise that ministry… I insistently pray the Holy Spirit to shine his light upon us, enlightening all the Pastors and theologians of our Churches, that we may seek—together, of course—the forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned.
Like the anathemas of Trent, the anathemas of Vatican I are not ignored–but it is clear that today we have a new situation and a new context in which our ancient churches may communicate with one another in a way they previously did not, and thus find a new path to unity that completely sidesteps the anathemas.
Of course, if (like the conservative Lutherans who rejected the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by insisting that Justification and Justification alone is the only way of viewing the work of Christ’s paschal mystery in us) we continue to insist that the language and paradigms of the past are the only acceptable language and paridigms of the future, then there is not much hope.
But if our faith is truly the same, then we will find a unified way to express it. A clear example (better even than the JDDJ) that comes to mind is the Christological affirmations with the non-Chalcedonian Churches (see here for the agreement with the Syrian Orthodox and here with the Assyrian Church of the East).
This leads me finally to the matter of the filioque. Catholics can (and do) omit the recitation of the filioque under special conditions (eg. when reciting the Creed in Greek, or in the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches, or when the Eucharist is celebrated in the presence of Orthodox guests). In otherwords, we do not insist upon these words, but not only that they have a place in our (specifically Latin liturgical) Tradition. Furthermore, we believe that dialogue on this point will strengthen our own understanding of the procession of the Spirit–something about which we do not believe we have all the answers.
However there are a lot of similarities even on this doctrine: We too uphold that the Father, and the Father alone, is the “monarche”. We too uphold that the Spirit cannot be separated from the Son. I am intrigued by some things that were said in the Colloquium lectures (eg. That the Spirit does not proceed “beyond” the Father and the Son. I think the issue was that the procession was internal to the Godhead, and that the Spirit proceeded FROM the Father TO the Son, rather than from the Father and the Son into the world. Did I hear and understand that right?). But these are things to be explored within the conviction that we hold (and desire to hold) the one and the same faith. I am also intrigued as to how the rejection of the filioque can be fully squared with the patristic idea (which is both eastern and western) of the Spirit as the fully Personal bond of love between the Father and the Son. Does this Love proceed only one way (ie. from the Father to the Son) or is it not both ways?
In any case, these are areas in which we can find agreement if we work at it and truly believe that fundamentally we do believe the same faith and are simply seeking the words to express it in unity. But in fact, I think the real issues are those other “little ones”: “mandatory clerical celibacy, unleavened bread, shaving, the rosary, the use of imagination in prayer and changes to the traditional Roman Rite.” These are the things that are really passionately rejected, and finding agreement in the “big issues” may well be feared because it will mean finally recognising that the “little issues” are legitimate areas of variation within the Unity of the One Church