I am myself a member of the Roman Church, and I think, like the author, that a "reunification synod" would be void of all deep meaning.
While we live in a world taken hostage by the "dictatorship of relativism," where science teaches us to break everything down to the smallest unit possible, it is quite surprizing that we all strive for unification: the European Union, the alliance of civilization, seeking the commonalities of religions (Christianity, Islam, neo-paganism and new-age, etc). Thus, the propsal to unite the two great christian faiths goes in that direction. This is where I agree with the author. Seeing the need for unification is itself a "calculated" act, that goes in the direction of the "humanistic wind" that sweeps over the modern world. Not that both the papacy and the orthodox patriarchates must remain at odds and inimical. But the best solution lies rather in a close relationship of the other (at least for now) than in a drafted reunification. We shall note that all attempts at reunification between both churches since 1054 have failed; interestingly, all were compelled by external events. The prospect of reunification asked by Constantinople pushed the papacy to launch the crusading expeditions, and it failed. When the armies of Mehmet II marched onto Constantinople, another "cahnce" to unify the churches failed: this time, the Byzantines rejected the preconditions (one might talk about blackmail) that the Patriarchate must reunite with Rome before the West sends aid.
What are the stakes today? There are no armies marching agasint Constantinople, and no need for the Vatican to launch military expeditions. Yet the conditions in which both Churches (and particularly the Latin church) lie today are against them. Secularism and scientism have launched an all-out assault against the Church. I do believe that the Church, eastern and Western, will survive this assault. The Western Church has lived through the Enlightenments, the secular and nationalist revolutions, and nothing tels that it will not survive the faith in science. The Eastern Church has lived through Four centuries of Turkish domination, and now faces challenges similar to the West, and nothing tells that Orthodoxy wil die strangled from those challenges.
Yet, each Church has had a separate development, a separate history, and different challenges. Our age is indeed particular in that both faiths face the same challenges, those cited above. These are the grounds for the current projects of reunification. But are these enough? A millenium of separation cannot be resolved by simple good will, let alone an ecumenical synod. If Rome and Constantinople did not resolve their conflict when Muslim armies were threatening the later, why would secularism and scientism serve as motive for reunification?
Both have different traditions now, so let both solve these issues in their own way. This imply a close collaboration, a sort of "spiritual union" but not an ecumenical union. Catholics today--or what is left of them in the west--would see nothing coming out of this union. We can assume that Orthodox will not, either. In short, both faiths would continue to live separate from each other. But we must advocate a close collaboration, and above all forget past divergences, which are unhealthy to good relations. As the current conflict between extremist Muslims and the West can be eased, if not resolved, by a dialogue between moderates in each side, so a dialogue and cooperation between both faiths will, if not make a first step toward a wanted reunification, at least bring them closer together, and face the challenges of our times.
Wise thinking, as I see it, and one more occasion where is proved how good are the intentions of all, and how much we are being undermined by mistakes of the past. Let's hope voices as yours will prevail, that we'll start having a common life beyond institutional and official unifications, until the day we are One naturally and not artificially, as we are one in the personal level, for example in discussions as this.
Being used to places where everyone says anything without second thought, what is the rule in mass media, online or not, I am surprised by conversations happening here. Not that all said is correct. For example, Laellius is wrong (and I am surprised George did not see or discussed this mistake) saying that “The prospect of reunification asked by Constantinople pushed the papacy to launch the crusading expeditions, and it failed.”
I think it is well known that the Crusades started to free from muslims the lands where Christ was born and taught. It is also known that Byzantium from the start was surprised at a church organising armies and crusades. It is also known that a previous attempt of a Byzantine emperor to combine the organisation of an expedition with forgiveness of sins, was overruled by the Patriarchate. And of course it is known that even the Crusade which ended with the sack of Constantinople at 1204 did not start by a request of Constantinople for a union of the Churches, but by predatory and rapacious moods of the Crusaders, which the Pope used in order to subdue Byzantium.
I mentioned these facts not for the sake of historical accuracy, but because Laellius says a few lines below, that we must “above all forget past divergences, which are unhealthy to good relations”. My question is, can we really build good relations upon forgetfulness? Forgiveness is ok, but forgetfulness is not, because then we wouldn’t know who are they that proceed and participate in the relations, why are they now related and not in the past, what made them change, who have been, who they are, who are willing to become. We need not to forget, but to remember, and then to go further, together or not.
In this mood I continue reading Laellius’ remark that “The Western Church has lived through the Enlightenments, the secular and nationalist revolutions, and nothing tells that it will not survive the faith in science”. I think here we touch one of our main problems, the problem of identifying the church with the clergy or some customs, which is a problem that started precisely in the West (already from Tertullian). If we free our thinking from this, we can understand that the Western Church has not survived at all these adventures. Western peoples are immersed in atheism and even the clergy was divided to the Protestant fragments. What kind of survival is this, when papacy itself was dissolved to millions of so-called churches whose principal aim is to protest against Papacy?!, when the peoples lost their faith and today we have stooped to the level of homosexual marriages, that is, the complete destruction of not only the Church, but even of the family? Unless Church = Vatican, I think Laellius would agree that the Western Church did not survive, on the contrary, it was destroyed and remained almost just the Vatican. Where I am starting to agree with Laellius, is when I see Orthodoxy following the paths of Papacy, preparing the collapse of faith even in the East, a prospect not realised yet, as Laellius too says, but not at all impossible – unless we stoop ourselves to the condition of identifying a Church with this or that clergy inside a people indifferent or even hostile to faith.
We can and should have contact, I think we agree on that in this discussion, to cooperate in matters coming from the union of the European states, etc., but we must remain separate in the doctrinal level, we must remain, (however sad this may be), divided in the Sacraments and the main ecclesiastical life, in order to keep before the eyes of our people (or what left of them...) the differences of our traditions, the deep differences that caused all this trouble for centuries, in order, maybe, someday to overcome and not to cover up problems that remain alive and powerful, as a sperm of the final destruction of Christianity.
Let me interrupt your unanimity on the cardinal topic of this discussion, which is the union of Orthodoxy and Papacy. Wouldn’t be better, if this contact and cooperation happened inside a sacramental union, instead of being marginal and “theoretic”?
How great a contact can happen, when participation in the Sacraments is separate, by itself saying “we have no contact, we are divided”?
If people saw this great schism being healed, would not they get more hope and strength?
Politicians and all who direct or express common opinion, would not respect more such a strength of a Christianity that becomes united?
Studying of both traditions, catholic and orthodox, would not become more deep and confident, in an environment where everything will be considered a common Christian heritage, discussed by brothers who partake of the Holy Communion together, and not by more or less opponents?
When nations with a long history in fighting each other, are now being united (I mean the European Union), how can the churches remain divided, especially Catholic and Orthodox, keeping so many identical customs, even the notion of the Church as an organisation which (besides all else) is traditional and not revolutionary?
If you are right, and, as Laellius writes, a union “would be void of all deep meaning... nothing coming out of this union”, a union disastrous according to the author of Ellopos Blog (http://www.ellopos.com/blog/?p=81) and Alex, how is it possible for both Churches to avoid this damage while cooperating, a contact and cooperation with which you all agree, when a close contact will have de facto abolished or at least decisively diminished all differences in the eyes of those who will cooperate and most of all to the people of the Churches, who will see their leaders meeting each other, having common opinions, decisions, actions, etc? Would not they think, “if you are able to work together in such an harmony, why can’t you also pray together and participate in the Holy Communion together, etc”?
This question, I guess, would be the start to either breaking apart again, or going on to the final union, because, as long as they remain in the middle condition, they will give the impression of our modern politicians, who argue about nothing and “they all are the same” as people repeat, a sameness by which they imply not very nice things...
I’m looking forward to your answers
Thank you for this great indeed forum
To Laellius in particular, who defines himself as “a member of the Roman Church” (a question in the margin of this discussion, and with respect, I don’t mean to be rude) : is there a “Roman” Church? I supposed it was Catholic, a Greek word meaning of all and for all, inside which there are contained local churches of Rome, Paris, Venice, etc. Unless you mean that you live in Rome and you are a member of the local church of Rome.
This is indeed a great discussion forum. Why, therefore, should we be surprised at the conversations taking place here? The forum is the meeting place of people from different background, and particularly of Greek Orthodox background. Every person is the product of his or her time and society. The views I express here are therefore my own, meaning not that I am the only one to profess them, but that they are a reflection of my Western, Catholic backgrounds. This does not make them any truer than other opinions, but different, and differnce makes the base of a debate.
So let me first expand more on the Crusades. The time of the Crusades is one very important for Westerners, Orthodox/Byzantines, and Muslims alike. No event in history is the fruit of a simple and single reason, but rather of a complex situation that result in that event. It is true for the Crusades. We must understand the different conditions prevalent in the Byzantine world and in the Western world as in two separate worlds.
The end of the 11th century in Byzantium was marked by a reawakening optimism. The defeat at Manziket in 1071 was a blow to Byzantium, but the Empire at least could hope with the crowning of Alexios Comnenos, one of Byzantium's ablest rulers, in 1081. His primary goal was to recover the territories lost to the Turks, a task he was successfual at accomplishing, and particularly Asia Minor, Byzantium's granary. It is in this context that Alexios Comnenos requested the Papcy's aid. Western armies, whose military value the Byzantines recognized, would serve as powerful mercenaries in Constantinople's service.
In the West, the Catholic clergy was in reform. Pope urban II was a Cluniac who firmly believed in the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, and who was at the time working to reform the clergy (the abolition of clerical marriage, etc). One of his ambitions, when Alexios' letter came into his hands, was to reassert Roman ascendancy over the Orthodox clergy. One scholar went as far as to say that the idea of liberating the Holy Land was an afterthought. Indeed, no mention of such Holy expedition is recorded before that time. Pope Urban II used this political pretext (help reconquer Byzantine territory) to achieve ecunomical and other political goals (the Roman bishop's supremacy over both the Orthodox churhces and the states of Europe). Thus, thought thePope, by calling Western knights to the Holy land, endless feudal wars would cease, and even used demographical arguments. In the Holy Land they would find wealth and forget the miseries of the West. This concept of Crusade was clearly invented by Pope Urban II at his council of Clermont. What was a reform coucil was trun into a preaching, and what was to be a simple reconquest of Byzantine lands was to become a Holy War more or less controlled by the Papacy. The Byzantines realized they would gain nothing from those Westerners, and their fears proved true in 1204 with the sack of the City. The Crusading expeditions were thus the result of two very different political agendas followed by two different--and even inimical--clergies. Politicas and religions were mixed in the drama of the Crusades.
Now, I want to come back to the idea of survival of the catholic Church. Once again, this difference in opinion comes from the conception Catholics and Orthodox have of their churches. To an Orthodox, the changes and transformations of the Catholic Church prove its abandonning its faith. What matters is stability. To a Western eye, stability is stagnation; what does not change, ages and dies. A British journalist once wrote that the Eastern Orthodox Churches was even more stagnant than the Roman Catholic church. This is a very good example of how society operates toward its religion, and vice versa. The reformation, the Enlightenments, the industrial revolution, were symptoms of a people constantly moving about, never ceasing to run. In order not to be left behind, the Catholic church adopted this rather pragmatic stance and adapted itself to society's changes. The Roman Pope might not be as powerful as he was five centuries ago, but he certainly still draws crowds to him (John Paul II, Benedict XVI). In the Western individualist society, one expects the Church to change along similar lines. In Orthodoxy (which, understanding this, regards itself the guardian of original christianity) the Word of God must remain what it is. Any attempts at changes is a violation of, and a renunciation of, God's word. Orthodox and Catholics thus have different conceptions of the role of religion in their respective societies, conceptions themselves shaped by their unique society. Western Europeans and easern Europeans have had a different history since, in fact, 395, and perhaps even before. Those conceptions of what role the Church should play is partly, if not completely, the result of this separation. We understand, then, the Reformation and Cathar movements in the West, which aimed at purifying Christianity from "papal tyranny." These were primarily anti-clerical movements. They contested Papal authority while claiming a purer form of Christianity. Today, individual rights are expected to supercede even Papal authority. This is just another instance of how Westerners feel about religion. Spirituality has not disappeared, neither has the Catholic Church. It is diminished, but still draws crowds; it is abandonned because people feel that it does not evolve, but it attracts crowds because it provides a wall agasint the scientism of our age. It is the opposite conception to the Orthodox view that the Church must not change.
Those are not merely religious or ecumenical issues, but cultural as well. Religion, culture, politics overlap, and those differences are found in arguments at every level. It is the case here. The issue is to understand those differences, and once both sides understand them, it will be easier to accept the other and not merely dismiss him as "untrue" or "tyrannical." This is the reconciliation Orthodoxy and Catholicism must first undergo, before a potential reunification. Now I agree with Alex, that we must not forget, but forgive, and overcome those differences.
To Laellius, on Crusades and the Secularization of the West
One can have this or that objection to what you say about the start of the Crusades, however, from what you say nothing supports your conclusion, that “The Crusading expeditions were thus the result of two very different political agendas followed by two different, and even inimical, clergies”.
It seems that you wanted to end like this any way, no matter the evidense you had. Where in your arguments is the “two clergies”? You only speak about papacy and Emperor Alexios Komnenos. I don’t know if participants in this thread can tolerate our interference with the “Crusades issue”, maybe it would be better to have it on a new thread. However, it is not irrelevant with the subject “papacy and orthodoxy”. You failed completely to answer my questions, by making a catalogue of events, which may be useful from many aspects, except for meeting my questions.
Although you admit that “This concept of Crusade was clearly invented by Pope Urban II at his council of Clermont. What was a reform coucil was turn into a preaching, and what was to be a simple reconquest of Byzantine lands was to become a Holy War more or less controlled by the Papacy,” you tried somehow to avoid the other fact, that “Byzantium from the start was surprised at a church organising armies and crusades”, something I thought it was common knowledge (Runciman, Ostrogorsky, Arweller, and others).
Our problem here in this discussion, is not to agree on a historical subject which is already solved by historians, and maybe had a self-speaking seal when the pope visited Greece a few years ago, as you may remember, and apologised for the Crusade against Byzantium, which would be just irrelevant if in the whole concept the Byzantine Church had a participation to any degree whatever.
The problem is that Papacy tried to spread in Byzantium the corrupt faith of the West, that is, not to ‘infidels’, but to Christians, by expelling Orthodox clergy and imposing Latine clergy to the Byzantine population, and by other means. The problem is that even when Greece was suffering under the Turks, the Pope used any means available to convert them to the Latine version of Christianity. These problems bring us to the second part of your response.
Maybe “the Roman Pope still draws crowds to him”, as you write, but crowds are gathered also by football teams : the problem is that he does not draw a society, and not to him, but to Christ. Being a French, you should know it better than me.
What does your faith gains, when you put quotation marks to the phrase “papal tyranny”. Was it otherwise? The word tyranny is rather mellow to describe the fires of the Holy Inquisition and the undescriptive tortures papacy used against heretics or supposed heretics.
You failed also to let yourself free to understand the importance of the fact that Catholicism was self-broken to the Protestant churches; in your good intention to defend papacy, you seem to underestimate the fact that Europe has ended to nihilism, gloriously culminating to the nazi production of furniture by melting human flesh...
Finally, you fail to understand that papacy is not the defensor of faith against scientism, but a factor which led to scientism, since papacy had transformed and continues to transform the very faith into a scientism, as is clear even from the recent speech of pope Benedict at Regensbourg (with comments here : http://www.ellopos.net/politics/benedict-science.html).
All these are not meant to make you say “I am wrong, you are right”, it is not a scientific conversation, but an attempt to see the present condition of a Europe sunk to barbarity, - a barbarity from which she can not recover by a religious science, because it was mainly this kind of a ‘religion’, papal science, that brought Europe to the mess of today.
Orthodoxy keeps (for the moment) the essence of faith, which is a living contact with the living God, a contact that made so many westerners like Olivier Clement or Kallistos Ware become Orthodox. If you are yourself in search for such a Contact, and not just treating and solving scientific issues as a historian or sociologian, etc, you can understand, because it is evident everywhere in the European condition, how inadequate papal faith is to give meaning to our life. This or the other specific pope may have very good intensions, even being a Saint : papacy as such, Catholicism and the Protestant branches, the religious culture developed by papacy through the ages, is not saintly – in my opinion, which is sadly supported by the condition of Western ‘societies’.