Today, I had a good email conversation with Fr Lawrence about his letter. We came to an agreement that indeed the issue in the CDF Responses on the Doctrine on the Church are about communion with the Bishop of Rome rather than about the recognition of the Primacy of the Bishop of Rome, although of course, both actually go together under normal circumstances, and a paradoxical situation (a “wound”?) developes when the latter exists without the former.
In his response, Fr Lawrence said that “I still hold that both East and West are wounded or maimed. Maybe differently.” That statement got me thinking. I am putting my thoughts up here, because it represents for me where my thinking on this matter is currently, and may help others also. I am myself searching for a vocabulary, a precise way of trying to explain to both myself and others what the ecclesiological situation is. In this endeavour, I appreciate being able to use those whose expertise and perspective are different and more experienced/learned than mine as a sounding board (eg. Fr Lawrence, and you, dear reader).
Fr Lawrence wrote to me that “Finally there are no Churches East or West. There is finally only the Church.”
I think there is a problem with the terminology “East and West”. “East” and “West” have no part in our theological ecclesiology (although a huge part in our historical theology). Perhaps JPII simply fueled confusion when he talked about “breathing with both lungs”. People took him to be talking about two “sister Churches”, the East and the West, aka the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. This is a great confusion. Geographical terms are even more confusing when the “East” and the “West” exist side by side in a place like Australia that is neither East nor West!
“But I still hold that both East and West are wounded or maimed. Maybe differently,” Fr Lawrence wrote. I agree with the “maybe differently part” (which I will explore in a moment), but, for the reasons given above, I find the use of the terms “East” and “West” difficult and confusing. Especially if it is taken to mean (as it usually is) “West=Catholic Church” and “East=Orthodox Church”.
If we could remove from the whole ecclesiological picture any distinction between Eastern or Western particular Churches, perhaps what we are trying to say is that both the Una Catholica and the particular local Church is “wounded” when that particular local Church is not in full visible communion with the Una Catholica–although from each perspective this “wound” is differently expressed.
1) For the Una Catholica, the “wound” is that the “fullness of universality” which is proper to it is “not-fully realised in history”;
2) whereas for the local, particular Church the “wound” is experienced as an “internal defect” in its nature as a true local Church.
Moreover, when such a lack of full visible communion exists between a local particular Church and the Una Catholica, it always expresses itself in a lack of full visible communion between particular local Churches.
In this case, the particular local Churches not in full visible communion with one another experience a “wound” in respect to their relationship with one another–because their relationship is less than that which is Christ himself desired and prayed that it should be.
Therefore, when a particular Eastern Church (eg. Moscow) and a particular Western Church (eg. Rome) are not in full communion with one another, the result is definitely a wounded relationship. Unlike the wound that is experienced between the Una Catholica and the local particular Church not in full visible communion with it, when two particular local Churches are not in communion with one another, this wound is felt equally and in exactly the same way on both sides. It is not as if the wound is only experienced on the part of the Eastern particular Church and not also the Western particular Church. And for such wounds, as Vatican II said, “often enough, men of both sides were to blame”.
So there are two different types of wounds being spoken of here. On the one hand, there is the wound that exists between two particular Churches, or between one group of particular Churches and another group particular Churches, when they are not in full visible communion with one another, and on the other hand there is that wound which exists when a particular Church or a group of particular Churches is not in full visible communion with the Una Catholica.
It is this latter kind of wound, rather than the former, which is spoken of in the Responses.