A narrow but deep gulf in ecclesiologies

I am a little loath to write about this, because I haven’t seen the full address that Cardinal Koch gave to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity at their Plenary gathering. Usually this is published in their four-monthly journal “Information Service”, which generally is about 6 months behind when it arrives in English in Melbourne. Don’t expect to see it on the net. (Note to the new President: the PCPCU’s page on the Vatican website is not updated very regularly, and could contain a great deal more news and information.)

So we have to rely upon http://www.thetablet.co.uk/article/15558|of what he said. Note that he would not have been talking in English – he is still learning the language – and so this is either The Tablet’s translation, or an English translation provided at the Plenary which some member of the Council has made available to The Tablet. So, given that the language is a bit technical, we should perhaps be careful (remember the very recent problem on the Pope’s original German on the condom issue).

Any way, this is what The Tablet reports:

“It is decisively in this postmodern mentality characterised by pluralistic and relativistic tendencies that is found the great challenge to the search for visible unity of the Church of Jesus Christ,” the Swiss archbishop said on Monday at the opening of the PCPCU plenary assembly in Rome marking the fiftieth anniversary of the pontifical council. In a theologically dense address to his first PCPCU plenary since becoming president last July, he said this mentality was found among not only Protestants but also “many Catholics”.

The PCPCU president, who is to be made a cardinal in today’s consistory, said the current crisis of ecumenism boiled down to what he called the two “profoundly different mentalities” that shape the way Catholics and Protestants describe the nature of the Church.

“The Churches and ecclesial communities born of the Reform have renounced the ori­ginal objective of ecumenism as visible unity and have substituted it with the concept of mutual recognition as Churches,” he said.

Cardinal-elect Koch said the Churches of the Reform were marked by the “grave phenomenon of ecclesial fragmentation” and had thus adopted an “ecclesiological pluralism”. He said this sees the goal of ecumenism as “reconciled diversity” of many Churches rather than the reconstitution of visible unity (while accepting diversity) in one Church. The ­cardinal-elect claimed that Protestant ­“pluralism” among different confessional Churches “contrasts with Catholic conviction that the true Church of Jesus Christ ‘subsists’ in the Catholic Church, in other words that she is already an existing reality”. “It is clear that there is a profound difference between this Protestant view and the Catholic and Orthodox interpretation according to which the ecumenical objective cannot be inter-communion but ‘communion’, within which eucharistic communion also finds its place,” he said.

This came up on William Tighe’s email discussion list the other day, and Orthodox commentator, Chris Jones, had this to say:

Cdl Koch contrasts “the original objective of ecumenism as visible unity” with “the concept of mutual recognition as Churches.” But there is nothing “invisible” about mutual recognition as Churches; that is the ecclesiology that obtained in the first millennium and continues among the Orthodox Churches today. By contrasting an ecclesiology of “mutual recognition” with something he calls “visible unity”, the Cardinal can only mean a unity that is “visible” specifically by being in one Church body with (and, of course, under) the Pope.

The difficulty with the approach of most (if not all) of the Protestant bodies involved with the ecumenical movement is not that they envisage an ecclesiology of “mutual recognition” among Churches, but that they have a minimalist understanding of exactly what it is that is being “mutually recognized.” A genuinely Catholic mutual recognition is a recognition of full agreement in the faith, grounded in a genuinely shared tradition handed down from the Apostles, held with a true Scriptural and Patristic mind, and expressed and lived in a traditional liturgical life. That is quite different from an “agreement to disagree” but still somehow “recognize” one another; or, worse, an agreement to a set of texts to which each party assigns a wildly different interpretation.

Nevertheless, by denigrating the notion of mutual recognition among diverse but genuinely Catholic Churches, Cardinal Koch makes a mockery of then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s famous dictum that Papal primacy need be accepted only as it was formulated and practiced in the first millennium; because that refers precisely to a context of mutual recognition among distinct Churches. I cannot help but wonder how Cardinal Koch’s remarks will be received among the clergy and faithful of the non-Roman sui juris Churches. Surely it will be news to them that there can be no true unity by mutual recognition among “true particular Churches.”

I responded:

Chris, I think you are obfiscating the issue here.

“Visible unity” of the Churches naturally means visible ties of communion with each local Church. Since the Bishop of Rome is a bishop of a local church, as is the Bishop of Constantinople and the Bishop of Melbourne etc., “visible unity” naturally would mean “unity with the Bishop of Rome” (and, “with the Bishop of Constantinople and the Bishop of Melbourne etc”). Such “visible unity”, which is more than a “mutual recognition” does justice to the notion of “Church” in the sense of the Una Sancta, rather than an ecclesiology which sees the universal church as a “federation” of local Churches.

In this “visible unity”, the question of communion of local churches is primary and the question of primacy of the heads of the local churches is secondary. Communion need not necessarily entail jurisdiction. There is no reason why you should interpret Cardinal Koch’s statement in contradiction to the Cardinal Ratzinger’s.

He responded


“obfuscating the issue”

I think not. I have no quarrel with what you wrote, and there is no conflict between an ecclesiology of mutual recognition and a concrete visible unity — nor with a robust notion of primacy. But what you wrote was and what Cdl Koch said are two different things. He did not present mutual recognition and visible unity as complementary (as you did), but as strongly contrasting, with an ecclesiology of mutual recognition as unacceptable. In my view he spoke very sloppily. He was taking aim, of course, at the Protestants, but what he actually said would, if true, put the Orthodox Churches out of court as well. I should hope that a prelate whose portfolio is Christian unity would choose his words much more carefully.



And I responded:

Dear Chris (and others listening in)

Two observations:

1) we don’t have the original document that Cardinal Koch presented, only the Tablet report. I think we should wait until the full plenary paper is available before judging the Cardinal. We don’t want to set some sort of new precedance by taking what The Tablet says as “gospel”, do we! :-)

2) I think the problem is with the term “mutual recognition”. Remember that he is talking about protestant “churches”, not Orthodox Churches. We already “mutually recognise” the Orthodox, and in that case, “mutual recognition” and communion are complimentary. But we don’t recognise the ecclesial integrity of the protestant communities – they are not “[local particular] Churches in the proper sense” as Dominus Iesus put it. The evident protestant ecumenism presents an ecclesiology of “mutual recognition” along the lines of the many agreements in the USA, eg. between the Episcopal Church and the ELCA and the Churches of Christ. This is quite a different ecclesiology at work. As institutions these bodies intend to remain quite independant of each other, often with quite separate ministries and sacramental orders, and little agreement on the Faith. This is “mutual recognition” reduced to open house eucharistic sharing, with no corresponding unity of Faith and Order.

Does that help?

And he responded:


“Does that help?”

A little bit, I guess. I certainly understand that Cdl Koch was talking about Protestant groups, not Orthodox. But in his concern to distinguish Protestant ecclesiology from Catholic, he has unwittingly (and needlessly) trashed Orthodox ecclesiology into the bargain. Perhaps, as you suggest, the full text of his remarks would allay this concern; let us hope so.

It is not quite true, BTW, to say “we already ‘mutually recognise’ the Orthodox.” You do; but they don’t. So it cannot be said to be mutual.


There are several issues here:

1) What Cardinal Koch meant by the “mutual recognition” formula of Protestant ecumenism
2) What difference he meant to imply by contrasting “intercommunion” with “communion”
3) The fact that he did not have Orthodox ecclesiology in mind (he spoke of “a profound difference between this Protestant view and the Catholic and Orthodox interpretation”)

The problem goes back, as I see it, to the definition of a Church “in the proper sense” in the 2000 document Dominus Iesus. There it was clarified that “the proper sense” of Church in Catholic/Orthodox ecclesiology is either the Church as the Una Sancta OR a true, local, particular Church. The latter is defined as a Christian ecclesial community which a valid bishop as its head, a valid priesthood, and (as follows from this) has maintained a valid eucharist.

With such “Churches in the proper sense” it is possible for true, local, Catholic Churches to seek “mutual recognition” (we already recognise the Orthodox Churches, even though, as Chris points out, this isn’t “mutual”). It is not possible for the Catholic Church as the Una Sancta to “mutually recognise” independent Christian ecclesial communions as true Churches “in the proper sense”. It IS possible – and indeed desirable – for the Catholic Church to do all it can by means of dialogue to seek “full communion” with such bodies, in which there is a mutual sharing of gifts, including the gift (from our end) of valid episcopate, priesthood and eucharist. This is, more or less, and in a particular way (although this “model” is not promoted as the ONLY way for this to happen) what has happened with the Anglicans coming into communion with the Catholic Church.

What Cardinal Koch has said is quite true, however, in my experience of ecumenism with Protestants. There does seem to be a lessening of desire to seek real communal unity among Protestants. Consider the way in which the Uniting Church formed in Australia back in the ’70’s. Then, the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches formed a new ecclesial body, united in ministry and in practice and in a single visible institution. The same thing happened in America when the ELCA was formed. That sort of thing has ceased to happen among Protestants today. Rather there has been a whole raft of agreements for “mutual recognition” and “intercommunion”. For eg., the Episcopal Church in the US and the ELCA are in “intercommunion” with each other, but the ELCA has baulked at the suggestion that all its bishops must be reordained as valid Anglican bishops. They maintain a completely separate identity. The same could be said for Australia, where the Uniting Church and the Churches of Christ have agreed upon not only “intercommunion” but a complete “sharing of ministries”. Yet the Churches of Christ have not joined the Uniting Church. They remain – in terms of governance and daily life – separate communities.

That is not the model that the Catholic Church desires to pursue as a vision of “full visible unity”. We seek “full communion” with all our brothers and sisters in Christ. This communion will still – of course – be a communion in diversity, as it is with the Eastern Churches with whom we are in full communion at this very moment. The question of governance – Chris’s concern with “jurisdiction” is a separate issue, and even now the Church is seeking appropriate ways to properly express the true particular identity of our Eastern Rites in Communion with the Bishop of Rome. If it is objected that this model necessarily includes a place for the Pope, well, the Pope is a Christian, isn’t he? And full visible communion among all Christians would have to include him. Of course, just how he would exercise the ministry proper to his office in this regard is a question that Pope John Paul II already raised in his 1995 encyclical “Ut Unum Sint”. Unfortunately, there has been a almost deafening silence in regard to his invitation for discussion on this matter.

There is and remains a gulf between the ecclesiologies of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches on the one hand and the ecclesiologies of the Protestant communions. It may not be a wide gulf, but it is a deep one.

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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36 Responses to A narrow but deep gulf in ecclesiologies

  1. Joshua says:

    Thanks, David. I had been looking forward to your take on this.

  2. Joshua says:

    From what I understand, “open communion” – extending to all baptized persons – is commonly practiced by mainstream Protestants today, whether Anglican/Episcopalian or whatever. I have read that, above and beyond such intercommunion agreements as between the ELCA and TEC, there is more and more such a notion of “open communion” among Episcopalians that even the unbaptized are invited forward to partake! Does that not demonstrate the danger of falling into entire indifference?

    So the Uniting Church and the Churches of Christ are separate bodies, but have complete intercommunion, even an exchange of ministries – such that a minister in one could take a job as a minister in the other? How odd.

    • Schütz says:

      Odd, but true. Not all problems have been completely ironed out, of course, as the CofC and the UCA still have different ways of determining who a minister is.

      Yes, “open communion” usually ends up meaning “communion for everybody” even the unbaptised. This completely skews the meaning of “communion” as the fellowship of the baptised in the Body of Christ. But therein lies exactly the deep gulf in ecclesiology.

  3. Steve Hayes says:

    As an Orthodox Christian I have little quibble with Koch’s statement, as reported by the Tablet in your quote above — at least on the face of it. The difficulty lies in one’s interpretation of “visible unity”.

  4. matthias says:

    Deep Gulf such as existed between the Rich man and the poor man and Abraham+ Surely not. For where all accept Christ as the Lord of the Church ,there can be no gulf ,unless men create it.
    as for my old denomination the Churches of Christ ,founded upon Open Communion as a revolt against Prebyterian Closed Communion,sharing ministry with the UCA ,then it will be a problem because Communion in the CofC is open ,but to all Baptised christians/those who Love the Lord ,to quote from a publication called ” down to preside” .

  5. Chris Jones says:

    Dear David,

    I am honoured that you think our exchange on this was worth publishing on your weblog. I feel constrained, however, to make a minor correction.

    I am not “Orthodox commentator Chris Jones.” I was at one time (for about ten years) a member of the Orthodox Church, but I am not such any longer. I remain a friend to the Orthodox Church (and indeed in most cases her partisan), but I am a member of a congregation of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod. I think I am fairly successful in presenting the Orthodox point of view, but I do not want anyone to think that I speak for the Orthodox Church with any more authority than my own knowledge and opinions.

    If it is objected that this model necessarily includes a place for the Pope, well, the Pope is a Christian, isn’t he?

    Well yes, he is a Christian; but is he an orthodox Christian, and does he preside over an orthodox Christian Church? Your model of “communion in diversity” is admirable, but surely you will agree that its “diversity” cannot include both orthodox and heterodox. That, after all, was close to the heart of Cardinal Koch’s point. If the Orthodox do not recognize the Church of Rome, her bishop, and the Churches in communion with her, as orthodox (and they do not), they cannot enter into communion — even “communion in diversity” — with the Pope.

    Perhaps that is why there seems to be a “deafening silence” in the proposed discussion of Papal primacy. The proposed discussion seems to be predicated on the idea that Catholicism and Orthodoxy are in substantial agreement in the faith, and all that remains to be discussed are the practical details of how the Pope ought to exercise his office. But for the Orthodox, there is no such substantial agreement. The Orthodox say, in effect: “First, let us deal with our differences in the teaching and practice; only then can we talk about primacy and the taxis of local Churches.” Or, more bluntly: “First, let the Pope confess the orthodox faith; then we’ll talk.”

    As is often the case with Roman Catholics, you do not take the dogmatic differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy nearly seriously enough.

  6. Schütz says:

    My apologies, Chris, I thought you were Orthodox. Thanks for the correction. I was asked to give my thoughts on the Koch comments and I thought our exchange a good place to start.

    As for the gulf between Orthodox and Catholic, I would characterise it as wide – as you rightly point out, but not deep. It can in fact be walked across without a bridge – but one does arrive at the other side to find oneself in a different country!

    I will never quite grasp the animus of the Orthodox attitude towards the Catholic Church. I know that many (and in fact most) regard Western Christianity as unorthodox, but I rather suspect that this is an historical grievance looking for a doctrinal excuse. It has been this way since the Photian Schism, and shos little sign of changing. But there are some Orthodox theologians and hierarchs prepared to embrace their Western brothers and sisters – the Ecumenical Patriarch for one – as true christians, so all is not lost. When the time for unity does come, at least there will be a common ecclesiology to foster communion.

    • The statements of the Ecumenical Patriarch need to be read more carefully. He is indeed tactful, kind, and hopeful, so that his statements have even misled some of the more fearful Orthodox. But the Patriarch is not at all prepared for unity with Catholicism as things stand now. In fact, he has told Catholics more than once that the Orthodox Church is their true home.

  7. Chris Jones says:

    “an historical grievance in search of a doctrinal excuse” is a perfect illustration of what I said about Catholics not taking the dogmatic differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy nearly seriously enough. That is simply a way of claiming that there are no theological differences worthy of notice, and as such is rather disrespectful to the Orthodox. The Orthodox attitude towards Catholicism is not simply “animus” (another reductionist and disrespectful term) born of historical grievance; it is the deliberate rejection of serious doctrinal error (filioquism, the Immaculate Conception, purgatory, merits and indulgences; and that is without even considering the ecclesiological errors involved with Papal supremacy). You can’t just dismiss those differences as “doctrinal excuses”; you have to deal with them. As a faithful and honest Catholic, you can deal with them by saying “we are right and the Orthodox are wrong on those issues”; but you cannot just ignore them and then say “I don’t understand the ‘Orthodox animus’.”

    • Thanks, Chris, from one who really is Orthodox. It’s this kind of dismissive attitude you have pointed out, which we encounter most of the time in dialogue with Catholics, that really does create some animus. That, together with the suggestion that what really stands in the way of reunion is that we Orthodox need to forgive past grievances. That we are unforgiving is an ugly charge. It ignores more than doctrinal issues, too; it also ignores current and continuing grievances.

    • Schütz says:

      I’m sorry, Chris – filioquism a “serious doctrinal error”? I thought you said you now belong to the Missouri Synod – and last I checked, they were “filioquists”. So what gives? Have you not yourself become a “filioquist”? And how could you possibily do this without believing in a “serious doctrinal error”? My contention would be that the Orthodox are simply creating doctrinal errors that don’t exist. On any of the issues you cite – all of which are hardly one-dimensional – the “difference” comes about because of exaggerated Orthodox insistence that there must be a fundamental difference. We, on the other hand, see that the Eastern and Western theologies are compatible rather than contradictory. Because the doctrines that the East denies are not those which the West teaches, but those which they imagine we teach. What Chesterton said of those who reject Catholicism is especially true of Orthodoxy – they have created a charicature of Western Catholicism and condemned the straw man rather than authentically seeking to know us and our formulations in relation to their own. It certainly is not a case of us trying to hold opposing points of view together; we sincerely believe that the faith of East and West are complimentary, and that the disagreements have arisen as a result of linguistic and cultural isolation rather than authentic disagreement on the heart of the faith. WE believe that the fullness of Catholicity comes through “breathing with both lungs” – unfortunately, this belief is not reciprocated.

      • Chris Jones says:

        My ecclesial affiliation has nothing to do with what the Orthodox Church believes and teaches. The Orthodox Church believes that the filioque is a serious, and Church-dividing, doctrinal error. They believed this before I became LCMS and they believe it now.

        I did not say that I believe filioquism is a serious doctrinal error. I said that the Orthodox Church teaches that it is — and that is a fact. You believe that this and other doctrinal differences are somehow manufactured by the Orthodox. You are seriously mistaken about that. If you were to study the issues a little more deeply, I think you would find that there is little historical or theological basis for your opinion.

        • An Liaig says:

          The reality is a bit more complicated. There are two issues with the filoque clause. The first is one of authority. The Orthodox believe that onlt a Council can chnage what a Council has written and then only to clarify, not to change. This is ultimately a dispute about the exersize of the Petrine office. The second is to do with the nature of the Trinity. Hardline Orthodox believe that the filoque clause means that Catholics deny the primacy of the Father and the equality of the Holy Spirit. The Catholic Church of course denies that this is what they mean by that clause. There is also a strong body of opinion is Orthodox theology, and from patristic writing, that filoque, understood as “per filoque”, is acceptable as a theological opinion, although not as a doctrine. The “per filoque” approach can act as a meeting point between the two Churches since it both expresses Catholic understanding and is acceptable to Orthodox theology. The issue of authority, of course, still remains.

          • Schütz says:

            I would recommend reading Aidan Nichols’ “Rome and the Eastern Churches” on this matter.

          • If you mean the same thing(s) we Orthodox mean, then please say the same thing(s), for the sake of Christian unity.

            But Catholics don’t. They refuse. What’s with that?

            • Schütz says:

              I am not quite sure what you mean by “They refuse”. From my perspective and reading, it is more than clear that we wish to affirm together what truly belongs to the Catholic and Orthodox faith. What exactly are you saying we “refuse” to say?

            • I say “refused” because it’s been a thousand years now of rather bitter controversy that could have been avoided or at any time resolved by your simply saying what we say, if you really mean what we mean. If it’s really all the same, then obviously you’ve nothing to lose and much to gain by deleting the filioque. But you don’t, for a thousand years.

              What does that tell us? I think it says there is a genuine difference, a meaning in the filioque more important to Catholics than unity with the Orthodox Churches.

            • Schütz says:

              I have a DVD which shows video footage of Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Bartholomew reciting the Nicene Creed together in Greek, and the filioque isn’t in it. On the other hand, the filoque (as even the term itself indicates) is in the Latin Liturgical Creed. Nor is the filioque used in those Eastern Churches in communion with Rome. It could be argued that the Greek and Latin are not the same Creed, such that the filioque has not been added to the Greek Creed of Nicea, but only to the Western liturgical creed used in our Rite. And you don’t just drop something that has been used in your Rite for a thousand years. You guys taught us that.

            • Yes, I know, but that (Patriarch and Pope omitting the filioque) is little more than a gimmick. I mean delete it from the Creed, period, in Latin as well as in Greek.

              The Eastern Catholic Churches are permitted to do it, so there should be no problem with the Latin rite doing likewise.

              Why not? If it was added after a thousand years, it can surely be deleted after another thousand.

              Of course, the ECs are still required to believe the filioque, even though they don’t have to say it in the Creed. And that would still be a problem for us. But nevertheless, deleting it would be a huge step forward in ecumenical relations.

            • Schütz says:

              “the ECs are still required to believe the filioque”

              Ummm. Not sure what to say about this. Partly, because “the filioque” is a phrase in the Nicene Creed, rather than a specific belief. If a Catholic says “and the Son”, what does he or she mean?

              Council of Lyons:

              “1. We profess faithfully and devotedly that the holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son, not as from two principles, but as from one principle; not by two spirations, but by one single spiration. This the holy Roman church, mother and mistress of all the faithful, has till now professed, preached and taught; this she firmly holds, preaches, professes and teaches; this is the unchangeable and true belief of the orthodox fathers and doctors, Latin and Greek alike. But because some, on account of ignorance of the said indisputable truth, have fallen into various errors, we, wishing to close the way to such errors, with the approval of the sacred council, condemn and reprove all who presume to deny that the holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son, or rashly to assert that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from two principles and not as from one. “

              The words in bold indicate what is to believed when one says “and the Son”. The Council of Florence expands upon this but says much the same:

              “In the name of the holy Trinity, Father, Son and holy Spirit, we define, with the approval of this holy universal council of Florence, that the following truth of faith shall be believed and accepted by all Christians and thus shall all profess it: that the holy Spirit is eternally from the Father and the Son, and has his essence and his subsistent being from the Father together with the Son, and proceeds from both eternally as from one principle and a single spiration. We declare that when holy doctors and fathers say that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, this bears the sense that thereby also the Son should be signified, according to the Greeks indeed as cause, and according to the Latins as principle of the subsistence of the holy Spirit, just like the Father.

              And since the Father gave to his only-begotten Son in begetting him everything the Father has, except to be the Father, so the Son has eternally from the Father, by whom he was eternally begotten, this also, namely that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.

              We define also that the explanation of those words “and from the Son” was licitly and reasonably added to the creed for the sake of declaring the truth and from imminent need.

              That is what the Eastern Catholic Churches are required to believe. That and no more.

            • Yes. That’s what the ECs are required to believe – and what the Orthodox have rejected all along.

              Not sure where you picked up the impression that the O’s don’t know what it is they are rejecting. ???

        • Schütz says:

          I assure you, Chris, that it is a topic which I have studied very deeply indeed. And the Western theologians who have given a lot of time to this agree that, if we were in fact saying by the “filioque” what the Orthodox believe we are saying, it would be a heresy. But the fact is that we are not saying any such thing. When Catholics say that the Holy Spirit “proceeds” from the Father AND the Son, they do not mean to say that the “procession” in question is of the same type. The Spirit “proceeds” from the Son differently from the way in which the Spirit “proceeds” from the Father. The Son, for eg., is not the “Arche” or the “source”/”head” from which all flows. The question is really too deep to address in a combox. But it is symptomatic of the relationship that Western theologians try to understand and acknowledge the validity of what the East is getting at, but this effort is not reciprocated.

          Still, speaking personally, tell me what you yourself have come to think about this? If you became a Lutheran (ie. a Western Christian) after having been an Eastern Christian, you must have had to sort through this issue yourself? Do you, for eg., believe that the teaching of the Lutheran Church is incompatible with the teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Church on this matter? Melanchthon did not seem to think so, when he sent a copy of the Augsburg Confession to the Patriarch of Constantinople to seek his support.

          • Chris Jones says:

            No, I didn’t really “work through” this when I became a Lutheran, because theological issues were really not paramount for me in that process. Since my personal situation is only marginally relevant to this thread, I think I will leave it at that. If you’re curious about the details of my odd and idiosyncratic denominational wanderings, drop me an e-mail and I can go into it.

            Historically Lutheranism inherited the filioque from the mediaeval western Church, and I don’t think they’ve really thought much about it. Just as the Augustana blithely talks about the “three ecumenical Creeds” when they manifestly are not anything of the kind: the Apostles’ Creed and the Athanasian Creed are western confessions only, and the Nicene Creed in Lutheranism is in its Western, not its original, ecumenical form. In my experience, when Lutherans try to justify the filioque they display a hopeless confusion between the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit and the temporal mission; so in effect you are right that there is no intention to confess a different faith than the Orthodox.

            But, as Anastasia says, if you intend to confess the same faith, why not actually confess the same faith in the same words? Why take a formula which (at best) is open to a heterodox interpretation and insert it into the ecumenical symbol of the faith?

            • Schütz says:

              Well, the original reason was to combat the Arianism of the Visigoths in Spain. The East did not have the same experience.

              I know what you mean about the confusion between the “eternal procession” and “temporal mission” – the same confusion is usually to be found among Catholics too.

            • The Creed was written largely in response to Arianism and already addresses it quite clearly and adequately without the filioque. “…begotten, not made, of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made…”

  8. Steve says:

    You wrote:
    “But there are some Orthodox theologians and hierarchs prepared to embrace their Western brothers and sisters – the Ecumenical Patriarch for one – as true christians, so all is not lost. When the time for unity does come, at least there will be a common ecclesiology to foster communion.”

    Not meaning to bust your bubble, but, there are many, many of us Orthodox that consider the Patriarch of Constantinople to be a borderline heretic.

    Chris is absolutely correct that RCs tend to ignore the dogmatic differences (and I could add the whole concept of sin to his list). I have seen this in attending RC classes as a guest.

    If you want to understand what is really going on with the RC Church and Orthodox, look to what is taking place between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox churches.

    Christ is in our Midst!

  9. Matthias says:

    “filioquism, the Immaculate Conception, purgatory, merits and indulgences; ” if these are some of the issues that the Orthodox have with the Catholic Church, can i presume that those eastern rite catholics who call themselves “Orthodox in Communion with Rome” have accepted these beliefs or if not accepted them in the name of unity recognsie that they belong to Western rite catholicism.?

    • Schütz says:

      Well, that’s my point exactly, Matthias. The Eastern Catholic Churches do not teach these doctrines in the same way that the Western Catholic Church does, but they do not deny them, and hold their own variations of them appropriate to the way that they express their faith.

      On the other hand, as you know, the Protestant Churches DO reject these teachings – more vehemently and thoroughly than do the Orthodox. And the Protestant rejections really do amount to a disagreement, because they reject them in the context of a shared Western Church view. (I am thinking of coining a new phrase: Kirche-Anschauung”). Thus the Protestants really DO reject these doctrines, but we Catholics see these very doctrines as implicit within the Orthodox Faith as well as our own. It’s all history, you know.

  10. matthias says:

    Bishop Timothy Ware an Orthodox bishop in his book THE ORTHODOX CHURCH ,quoted a Russian orthodox bishop of the 19th century who said that protestantism and catholicism are really two sides of the one coin.

    • An Liaig says:

      I ahve come across this comment many times. It is normally made by Orthodox who have little understanding of the history of the Western Christianity. It is also put more forcefully ( by Ware himself): “The Pope is really the chief protestant. This is deeply offensive to me, particularly as an heir to a people and tradition that suffered horribly for their refusal to be protestants. The brutal and murderous Anglican persecution of the Irish was precisly because they refused to give up their belief in the communion of saints, the veneration of the Holy Mother and the reality of the sacraments. For these belifs they were killed in their millions. In Australia, Catholics were ordered flogged by the Anglican Rev. Marsden precisly for these beliefs – beliefs they refused to surrender. To say that these people were effectively protestants is to say that their heroism and martyrdom were for nothing. It is hard to imagine a more offensive or ignorant statement.

      • Matthias says:

        Samuel Marsden was a Protetsant equivalent to the Inquisition ,and whilst we should move on and put the past behind us,the events that you mentioned plus the Massacre of the huegenouts in France ,the Burnings by bloody mary and the persecution of english catholics and non conformists need to be perhaps put to rest once and for all by a service of reconciliation and forgiveness- if not already done so

    • Schütz says:

      Yes, and from an Eastern perspective, that makes sense. Protestants and [Western] Catholics do theology in the same way with the same presumptions. When we argue, for eg., about original sin, we are both doing so on the basis of the Western tradition stemming from St Augustine. We may disagree on the specifics of the doctrine, but our theology has the same “shape”. Theology in the East, on the other hand, have an entirely different “shape”. Western Catholics maintain that doctrinally, Western Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy are not that far removed from one another in substance, but it is the manner of expressing the faith – including the language of this expression itself – which is light years apart. Western Catholics see in the Eastern perspective and theological method a richness that enhances our own perceptions of the faith, but this is not reciprocated. We speak of “breathing with both lungs”, seeing the Eastern tradition as a necessary compliment to the Western Tradition, but many in the East see us as a completely foreign body, a cancer almost. It amounts to an assertion that the Eastern “shape” of theology is the only valid shape theology may take.

  11. Tap says:

    “Bishop Timothy Ware an Orthodox bishop in his book THE ORTHODOX CHURCH ,quoted a Russian orthodox bishop of the 19th century who said that protestantism and catholicism are really two sides of the one coin.”

    Russian Orthodox Philosopher Vladimir Soloviev said (in so many words) that the Eastern Orthodox Church and Islam are two sides of one coin. If we a pushing theological paradigms then EO should be able to see the parallels between their theology and islam as quickly as see one between Catholics & protestants.

    • Schütz says:

      Oooh. That’s a bit under the belt, Tap. ;-)

      • matthias says:

        And hence why Soloviev founded the Russina Catholic Church “orthodox in communion with rome” and if you read his book THE ANTICHRIST ,it shows the Pope- minus the Vatican and all the entourage,-leading christians,catholic,orthodox and Protestants out into the Wilderness,with a Lutheran pastor and an orthodox Elder walking just behind the Pope.

  12. William Tighe says:

    “And hence why Soloviev founded the Russina Catholic Church ‘orthodox in communion with rome'”

    Not exactly; he professed agreement with all that the Roman Church taught dogmatically, including (especially including) the “papal dogmas” of Vatican I, for which he was, if not formally excommunicated, at least denied communion in the Orthodox Church, and during that period he rec’d communion at least once from a Russian Catholic priest, while a the same time making it clear that he was not leaving the Russian Orthodox Church and becoming a “Roman Catholic.” On his deathbed he rec’d communion from an Orthodox priest and professed himself “an Orthodox Christian,” but it does not seem that he was required to recant his “papalistic” ecclesiological views. It was some admirers and disciples of Soloviev who went on to found the “Russian Catholic Church” shortly after his death.

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