Archpriest Lawrence Cross: Wounded Orthodox
Just when relations with the Orthodox Churches were entering a more cordial phase, whatever possessed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to describe Christian Orthodox churches as true churches, but suffering from a “wound” since they do not recognize the primacy of the Pope? The statement is an appalling ecumenical gaff, but it is also woefully ignorant.
The Orthodox already acknowledge that the primacy in the universal Church was awarded to the successor of Peter in Rome. What they object to is the historical institutional development of the papacy which has made the exercise and the acceptance of that primacy impossible and unworkable: in other words, Roman papal absolutism. Most Orthodox theologians and hierarchs appreciate that the communion of Orthodox Churches could well do with a papal primacy exercised in love by their presently estranged elder brother in Rome. Borrowing a biological analogy, the Orthodox communion suffers from hypoglycemia, too little of a loving primacy. On the other hand, the Roman communion, in the matter of primacy, suffers from hyperglycemia, a much too absolutist primacy. Both are diabetic. Without treatment, in the shape of a truly reformed papacy, both suffer and the final stages of the untreated disorder might be very sad indeed.
Even the language of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is rooted in an ultramontane past. How condescending to ‘allow’ ecclesial reality to the great Churches of the East who, in antiquity and later ages, developed and transmitted the Catholic faith to the world at large, including Rome and the West. Finally there are no Churches East or West. There is only the Church. It is to that Church that we all need to be converted.
Archpriest B.J. Lawrence Cross OAM is Associate Professor of the School of Theology (National), Australian Catholic University
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