There’s a lot of buzz in the Catholic blogosphere…

…that Catholic-Orthodox unity is imminent (well, maybe not imminet but no more than a quick bike ride away). That’s news to me, and also to Fr. Peter-Michael Preble who writes about it on his blog: Catholic-Orthodox Unity? Some background, more.


  1. Interesting to me is not so much the talk of unity, but the location of the news: Russia.

    Given that the statement is coming from the Catholic Archbishop of Moscow and not a representative of the MP it is probably wishful thinking since, in June 2008, Archbishop Hilarion said, “I think we should not expect the complete unity of Orthodox and Catholic rites. The division occurred almost 1,000 years ago and it can hardly be repaired.”

    I think the more interesting question is what this type of press does to relations between the MP and the EP. Might the MP enjoy it? It would certainly put one more feather in their “Third Rome” cap.


  2. If I may, it seems to me that–theological differences between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches aside for a moment–the impediment to reconciliation between our two Churches seem largely internal to the Orthodox side of the question.

    That is to say, we cannot move toward reconciliation between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches because though we (the Orthodox) share a common faith we are nevertheless divided in other ways.

    Our own divisions for all that they are secondary (e.g., the lack of administrative unity not only in the US but also Western Europe, Australia and parts of Asia) are nevertheless an impediment to healing the schism. I do not say this lightly, but we need to face the facts of our situation.

    Taking the narrowest interpretation of the Great Schism, that all the fault lies on the side of Rome and that they need to repent and return to us, how can they do this when we cannot even manage to agree on relative simple matters such as a unified and functional administrative structure for the US? We cannot even agree how to reconcile a single Catholic lay person to the Church–is it by confession? chrismation? or baptism?–without arguments and recriminations. How do we imagine we would receive 1.5 BILLION Catholics as Orthodox Christians?

    I agree, as I alluded to on my own blog, that the interpretation many are giving to the words of Catholic Archbishop of Moscow are overly optimistic–I suspect that what he was referring to was not a re-establishment of communion, but pastoral collaboration and cooperation in the face of the twin threats of Islamic radicalism an increasing secular culture. But even this cooperation will be difficult to put into effect if, sadly true to form, one or more of the Orthodox churches (or bishops) stamps it (or his) foot and has a temper tantrum.

    It is sad for me to think that it is we, the Orthodox, who are the stumbling block in this matter.

    Again, thanks for the post.

    In Christ,


  3. Fr. Gregory, your comment is indicative of our attempt to have a conciliar polity guided by the Holy Spirit rather than a Magisterium ruled by the Pope.

    My personal interest in re-unification of Rome with the Church is about zero. Any person is free to come to the Church be catechised and enter if that is their desire.

    The MP’s approach to Rome seems far more constructive than the EP’s. Alliance where feasible rather than concelebrating.

    We Orthodox have always been a raucous bunch and compared to some of the tantrums during the Patristic age, what we have now is small stuff.

  4. Yea and I am growing another finger!

  5. I would like to see Christian unity occur in the near future; however, I think it will take more than a few months to occur.

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be visiting the United States for two or three weeks from late October to early November, 2009. Hopefully, he will provide us with some sincere feedback on when he expects Christian unity to occur.

  6. In my opinion, there should be no rush for the restoration of unity between
    Rome and the Orthodox East. We should not desire unity for the sake of unity.
    The Council of Ferrara-Florence supposedly resulted in “unity”. It was a false Union agreed to by Constantinople under duress and enormous pressure.

    I am skeptical of the whole Ecumenical movement and feel that the Orthodox
    Church is abandoning its claim to be the “One holy Catholic and Apostolic
    Church”. In his book, the Orthodox Church Timothy Ware wrote that Orthodox
    participation was supposed to ensure that a proper witness to the true faith
    and Church was provided for. This standard seems to have been abandoned
    with regard to relations with the liberal Protestant Churches.

    With regard to the Church of Rome. There are in my opinion factors that have
    not been addressed that complicate the move toward reunion. Even if, the
    Church of Rome comes to accept Orthodox teachings on the filioque,
    Conciliarity, etc… what about the problems of the Roman Catholics?

    The Catholic Church has enormous problems imposing discipline on much of its
    faithful with regard to both dogmatic and moral issues. Will this not become
    a problem for Orthodoxy if that day long far off as it may be, comes to pass?

    I just read a book called “Being Catholic Now” which includes a variety of
    viewpoints from famous American Catholics. Many of these Catholics do not
    just dissent from the Papacy. They reject teachings that are at the core of
    the Orthodox Church.

    Many of these contributors do not even believe in the afterlife! This is a
    profound rejection of the good news of the resurrection itself. Liberal
    Catholics seem to believe all that matters to be Christian is doing social
    work. Dogma means nothing to them, nor do core moral issues such as abortion
    and sexual morality.

    The Catholic Church, despite its enormous power, wealth, and organization
    runs between the extremes of the Papal claims of infallibility on one hand,
    and the other extreme of being challenged by liberals seeking to overthrow
    any form of authentic Christianity. The Church of Rome has serious problems
    threatening it and there are many Catholics who want it to go the way of the
    way of the Episcopalian Church and the National Council of Churches.

    Might reunion with Rome not include the possibility of inheriting all of
    Rome’s increasing problems should it actually occur.

    As far as I can see, however disunited the Orthodox Church in America might
    be, I do not see large numbers of Orthodox openly denying either dogma or
    moral issues. The Catholics in my opinion despite their large numbers,
    organization, etc.. have far more severe problems than we do.

    Talk of reunion is premature.


  7. Theodoros says:

    The Catholics in my opinion despite their large numbers,
    organization, etc.. have far more severe problems than we do.

    Talk of reunion is premature.

    George Patsourakos says:

    …why would you like to see unity? Why is it a good thing that it be soon?

    IMO talk of union is not only premature it is wholly unnecessary. Those who are called by Christ and seek communion with Him will be irresistibly drawn to the truth. The Christian life is intimately personal in nature–lived in commnity. It is not a corporate life lived individually. Unity will only be achieved by the common response of the faithful to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The more the bishops unilaterly declare unity, the less there will actually be-as Theodoros points out.

    Unity is not achieved through dialog and fiat, only through the Holy Spirit. When we desperately seek after a ‘union’ of our own making we display an appalling lack of faith.

    In actuality we have little in common with the RC church. There are not ‘two lungs’: they are schismatics or we are. The mindset that even considers the ‘two lungs’ theory is in and of itself schismatic, but until we know for certain who is the schismatic and who is not, there is no basis for unity–NONE. I don’t even see much real basis, other than a worldly pragmatism, for working together with Rome on a high-level offical basis. Any common cause should be at the parish level as far from worldly eys as possible.

    I for one would refuse to acknowledge the authority of any bishop or priest who proclaimed union with Rome under any conditions that I can forsee actually happening. I would not be alone. Therefore there will be no unity only a demonic fantasy–the form of Godliness with none of the substance.

  8. George Patsourakos :

    I have been asked “Why would I like to see Christian unity? Why is it a good thing that it be soon?”

    I would like to see Christian unity because Christ established His Church as a united Church — one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church — not a church split into Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant divisions with each one claiming to be “the true Christian Church.”

    The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches tore the Christian Church apart in 1054, when the Great Schism occurred. In 1517 Protestantism was established, as a result of Martin Luther’s criticism of the sale of indulgences in the Roman Catholic Church.This divided the Christian Church even more. Christians have been waiting for nearly 1,000 years for the reunification of the Christian Church. I also believe it would be an awesome inspiring phenomenon to witness Christian unity in our lifetime.

  9. Well, there was a brief union when Constantine XI, the last emperor received communion by both Catholic and Orthodox priests before going into battle against the Turks in 1453 in Hagia Sophia and later on Hagia Sophia became a Mosque. I agree there are still a lot of differnces but this event makes one wonder.

  10. George P. We should have unity because disunity is a bad thing and we should have it now because it would feel good?

    You also seem to feel that both the Catholics and Orthodox are schismatic–that the schism destroyed the one Church and left us in tattered pieces, bereft of any true worship. We’ve been limping along since then and can only realize oneness again if we reunite. You do realize that such a position is not taken by either side but that it comes closer to the RC side than the Orthodox?

    While the Orthodox hierarchs certainly could have done more to work with Rome in a manner that would not create dissension and inflame the passions of the Legate Cardinal Humbert, do you not agree that their were real issues of important consequence? Do you, rather, believe that it was all a matter of personal pride, language and cultural differences and no real split after all?

    I’m lost.

  11. To George Patsourakos

    Orthodox means “correct belief” and “correct worship” and has always claimed
    to be the “one holy catholic and apostolic church”.

    It would be nice for all who call themselves Christians to be united but this
    can happen only in one circumstance, when all are part of the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is one thing to be polite with non-orthodox, it is
    quite another to accept that they are part of the true Church.

    The Orthodox Church has suffered as a result of Ecumenism and the well
    intended but misguided efforts to seek “unity”. Unilateral efforts to
    achieve “Christian unity” led to both the revision of the Calendar and
    the Old Calendar split within the Church of Greece in 1923. This remains
    a lamentable division that should not have been permitted to occur.

    For several decades, Orthodox theologians have been meeting in dialogue with
    Roman Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, and Protestant theologians and so the
    teachings of the Orthodox Church should be well known to them. They either
    accept what the Orthodox Church teaches or they do not. There is no more
    to be said.

    As for the Catholic Church, it seems to be hardening its claims. In 2006,
    the Papacy abandoned the term “Patriarch of the West” implying it is the
    Patriarchate for the East as well as the West. Both the present Pope and
    his predecessor praised the Uniate Churches and presented them as models
    for reunification, this despite the fact that all Orthodox Churches have
    made clear to Rome that the Uniates are in fact totally unacceptable.

    With regard to the Protestants, these Churches are moving farther away from
    Orthodoxy. There was an interesting dialogue between some German theologians
    with the Ecumenical Patriarch Jeriemiah in the sixteenth century which went
    nowhere, and that was when the Protestants still adhered to Christian

    Today’s Protestants have become politicized and secular institutions not
    only rejecting our Orthodox dogmas but embracing gay marriage, abortion,
    and euthanasia. Many of these Churches use “mother” to refer to God and
    refer to the Holy Trinity as “creater, redeemer, and sanctifier! How
    can our Bishops sit down with these “Churches”!

    We would be better off as Orthodox dialoging with one another and resolving
    misunderstandings and disputes in brotherly love since we belong to the
    one true faith of the Apostles and the Holy fathers. Interfaith dialogue
    was once a well intended experiment that has gone very wrong.


  12. Theodoros, I agree with you, we need to have inter-Orthodox conversations on many things–the nature of the episcopate; the calendar (we really should all go back to the old calendar and keep it; a clear Orthodox social ethic that is not dependent on various worldly ideologies; a common standard of praxis in our parishes; a common way to receive those outside the Church, the list goes on.

    Although I think your description of Protestantism is a little broad, they largely don’t know what they have faith in or who they should have faith in.

    The Orthodox Church is the standard by which every other Christian body is measured, whether they know it or not–whether we choose to accept it or not.

    What bothers me most about ecumenism is the uncritical acceptance of the worldly myth of egalitarianism–all belief is of equal value

    Pope Benedict made it quite clear early in his papacy that re-unification means one thing: acceptance of Papal authority as Rome defines papal authority.

    Any bishop who accepts unity with Rome under those conditions has become a schismatic and removed himself from the Apostolic authority of the Church, just as occured in A.D. 1054.

    Strange, but I find no where in the Bible or any other part of Holy Tradition that being friendly and break bread with schismatics, heretics and unbelievers is required. We are to preach the truth in love as it has been revealed to the Church. That is the exact opposite of what most ecumenism does.

    Personally, I’d rather have a situation in which the folks who don’t want any part of traditional Chrisitianity stop pretending and we stop having much to do with them except to call them to repentance–that includes the RCC. Unfortunately, right now, I don’t trust the bishops not to give away the store.

  13. #6. Theodoros says: … “The Catholic Church has enormous problems imposing discipline on much of its faithful with regard to both dogmatic and moral issues.”

    While this is true it is not a new problem. Augustine wrote about it many years ago in The City of God. I’m not trying to minimize, or excuse the problems; only noting that it has probably been a problem from day one.

    That the Catholic Faith May Be Confirmed Even by the Dissensions of the Heretics.

    “For all the enemies of the Church, whatever error blinds or malice depraves them, exercise her patience if they receive the power to afflict her corporally; and if they only oppose her by wicked thought, they exercise her wisdom: but at the same time, if these enemies are loved, they exercise her benevolence, or even her beneficence, whether she deals with them by persuasive doctrine or by terrible discipline…

    “But that grief which arises in the hearts of the pious, who are persecuted by the manners of bad or false Christians, is profitable to the sufferers, because it proceeds from the charity in which they do not wish them either to perish or to hinder the salvation of others…”

  14. #7. Michael Bauman says:… I for one would refuse to acknowledge the authority of any bishop or priest who proclaimed union with Rome under any conditions that I can forsee actually happening.


    Would your refusal “to acknowledge the authority of any bishop” extend to those Orthodox Bishops who wish to work in union with the Catholics on social and moral issues? (Which is what I think Abp. Hilarion is referring to.)


  15. Greg re #15: No, although I would rather see such cooperation at the parish and regional level. Frankly, though given the real and substantial differences that exist between us, any high level cooperation is almost certain to result in some sort of accomodation that will not be good for either and lead to even more confusion amongst the faithful than there already is. And what is the cooperation for…in order to project power upon the world. Have we forgotten the Cross?


  1. […] Fr. Peter-Michael Preble writes on his blog (click here) about the recent comments by the Catholic Archbishop of Moscow that Catholic/Orthodox reconciliation is (according to the news report)”within a few months” (you can read the whole article here).   I agree with Fr Peter-Michael that, “as much as many of us hope and pray that one day this will be true I hate to disagree with His Eminence.”  (h/t: AOI) […]

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