Your interruption of our unanimity is most welcome, giving us a chance to think more on a problem of no small importance, from aspects very few union-supporters would have expressed with such clarity. Let’s begin from the beginning.
Your first question is How great a contact can happen, when participation in the Sacraments is separate, by itself saying ‘we have no contact, we are divided’?
There are degrees of contact, and the highest degree (“how great”, you ask), the very greatest is possible without sacramental communion, exactly as it was even before Christ. Of course, this is true so far as we stay on the personal level. This is why I can love a (particular) Muslim incomparably more than a (particular) Christian, or, to put it in other words, a Muslim can be more Christian than a Christian – always in the personal level, beyond doctrines, institutions, and the whole of what we call “culture” or “civilization”.
Thinking about secondary contact, that is, the relationship as influenced by cultural factors, which is what your question maybe regards mainly, then you are right, in my opinion, without common participation in the Sacraments our contact will be limited. But none of us in this discussion said this kind of contact and co-operation is the ultimate ideal, but that it is a desirable step, with the wish that some day it will come to the point of being fulfilled in a sacramental union not biased, but coming out of our previous contact, with the participation of our peoples, which means that we give a chance to ourselves to be born by tradition, instead of designing it as artificial and tyrannical in the laboratory. We don’t need a union of experts, what we need is a union of peoples.
To put it otherwise, what is the point of our bishops and ‘theologians’ deciding the tradition, when our peoples regard each other with enmity or suspicion, which can not be avoided so far as in their heart speak different things : if I love Homer, and you don’t give a penny for Homer, as is the case, for example, with Greeks and Turks, there can not be cultural union, no matter how many bureaucrats of Greece and Turkey agree on a union. The same happens with Catholicism and Orthodoxy. I hope this answers your first question.
You ask next: If people saw this great schism being healed, would not they get more hope and strength?
You don’t have to suppose; just remember how pathetic was the recent so-called ‘celebration’ of the 2 millenia A.D., that shameful invention of the Jubilaeum, as if Christ was something past, and not always born in our heart, in the Sacraments and Everywhere. That blasphemous invention and parody of celebration, which was held in common by all ‘Christianity’, didn’t bring hope and strength, but just revealed boredom and vanity.
Now bring yourself to a day that our theological geniuses and all sorts of experts decide for us to be united, and with the approval of our deep-sleeping clergy, call that bureaucratic and scholastical decision an Ecumenical Synod and a Church Union. How do you imagine that day? Bells ringing everywhere and Joy filling the air? I don’t think so, Fede. And what is the reason? It is what I said above : in order for our hearts to feel a real union, a real union must exist, and Orthodox people just don’t care about Aquinas and what Aquinas represents.
Thomas is not ‘a thinker’ of Catholicism, he is the very ‘heart’ of it, which we see as it is, a mechanical ‘heart’, unable to feel or transmit faith to anyone and herself. What happens with Thomas, regards many aspects of ecclesiastical life, which I don’t need to mention here, from what you write I can imagine that you are able to guess by yourself. The result of all of them, is that we are not united; it is not only Filioque or any specific doctrine, it is the whole of our ecclesiastical life that divides us, and we can not become united by a sudden decision of bureaucrats and self-appointed ‘theologians’.
“Strength and hope” are the last things you can expect from such a union, you’d rather expect internal divisions in both sides or at least in Orthodoxy – and even if such a decision was accepted (which is not the case - it wasn’t accepted even when Turks were at the gates of Constantinople), but even if the ‘experts’ managed to take such a decision without ruining Orthodoxy, what kind of “strength and hope” would you expect from a union where the participants do not participate to each other’s deeper self?
To your next question: “Politicians and all who direct or express common opinion, would not respect more such a strength of a Christianity that becomes united?”
If by ‘respect’ you mean fear and suspicion, then you have a point, and I agree. If you mean indeed respect, then I believe you are wrong : In order to feel respect for someone, we must share the same values. To respect a musician he must, before anything else, play a music I can understand and want to listen to. I don’t think that Western politicians in general (excepting a few) are attracted to Church music, unless you have in mind George Bush and that sort of Church music, which, I hope, is not your idea of faith.
A union of Orthodoxy and Papacy, if it was to bring something to the hearts of our ‘political’ ‘world’, this would be rather suspicion and fear, than respect, and the same can be said for the majority of our intellectuals-without-intellect – while people who keep their minds, would feel sadness, maybe a little anger too, at the fact that we are being drown in just a spoon of water.
To your next question : “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?”
Absurdity First : To have Holy Communion together, it needs be a Holy Communion, but as you know, Catholic people participate to only one of the Eucharistic elements (if we can call Eucharistic element the magical pill of wafer...), the other being devoured by the Priest. Yet, let us suppose that the geniuses solve this problem and people and clergy of both Churches participate to both elements, even in real bread and not wafer. Does this participation suffice to make us have a “common Christian heritage”? It didn’t suffice for centuries in the past, why will it suffice now?
Besides this, if sacramental unity is necessary in order for us to “study both traditions deeply and in confidence”, then how we can study, e.g. Plato or Homer, who were not even Christians? Do you really believe that the Orthodox are not interested in Thomas because of the lack of sacramental union with Papacy, while if we are united, Thomas will be studied deeply and in confidense? If you do, it is safe to stop doing it; aversion for scholasticism is not a result of the alienation between East and West, rather one of the causes of alienation.
Your next question : “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?”
In this I see much good intention and only that. What European union are you talking about? If there is a union, you can bring it as an example, but there isn’t, just commercial agreements, ready to dissolve with the first blow of the wind. Europe is not being united, no matter what the appearances say – unless by union you mean the “cease fire”, which is also untrue, because the war has been transferred elsewhere, inside social life, in each counry-member, where everyone is against everyone in a general fight for more and more, and then even more, power. Our churches understand this jungle-union, that Europe (and not only Europe) re-discovers, following the American path herself founded ages ago, although not yet beautifying it with ‘democracy’.
And what our Churches do for that? They try to have our currency saying : “In God we trust”! This is what they try to do, this is the solution they have. Does it matter, if they have this solution in common or divided? The solution is the same, and sooner or later they will find themselves ‘united’ in the exact same way that states are ‘united’, and then schisms, eucharistic unions, doctrines, etc. will have no importance whatsoever, they will have been overcome by a universal alienation from real faith.
Don’t you see, what happens in Russia? After all that suffering from the communist import, what is the brilliant idea which illumined the minds of Russian clergy, in order to save the people and support Orthodoxy in Russia? The idea is to make of faith an ideology and boredom, to bring it as an ‘object’ of ‘study’ in classroom ‘education’... This is the great idea, and with such ideas, already proven not inadequate, but catastrophic, our clergy still or again try to support faith...
Then you speak about a common loyalty to tradition. Where is this loyalty in papacy? I don’t see it. I see the papacy first denying Filioque, then accepting Filioque, today abandoning it again..., and we are not talking about a peripheral issue, but for a central trinitarian dogma. I see papacy condemning Aquinas, then making of him a cornerstone, not knowing what is indeed problematic with Aquinas, thinking that problematic can be only a thesis, losing sight of the essential heresy, which is the transformation of faith to just a thesis, something even Thomas understood before he died... Numerous the examples, most characteristic (and catastrophic), in my opinion, being the outrageous condemnation by Papacy of the greatest theologian of the West, Meister Eckhart. You’d rather speak of opportunism, not of traditionalism, unless you limit your thinking in comparisons with the ultimate of papal reasoning, which is protestantism.
Thus I come to your criticizing what was said before in this discussion about the need of contact and cooperation, without doctrinal and official reunifications and fanfares.
I am afraid that what you say on this, can indeed happen. It is not necessary, but possible, and, given the situation of both Catholic and Orthodox churches, despite the difference in the degree of decay, it is a possibility tending to become certainty. Yet, if Eastern and Western Europe is now politically ‘united’ and, in any case, communication becomes not pan-European but global, our Churches do not have the luxury of being self-contained. They are moving and living in the same ‘social’ space, wanting it or not, which is something they can do in co-operation (for the better or for the worse), or in enmity, which can be only for the worse.
Where a French, a German, an Italian, a Greek, etc, are together, even in just a common business and not in a deeper relationship, what is the good of their priests not speaking with each other? Monks are saved in the monastery, priests are saved in their people. Where people is, there are the priests. If Greeks are in the European Union, and co-operate with the Europeans, there the Greek priests will be, wanting or not, to be saved or lost together with their people. They’d better understand their faults, if there is time and mind to do it, instead of protecting a virginity lost long ago. If they are going to be reduced to politicians and diplomats, so be it, isolation would not bring the opposite.
What separates Orthodoxy from Papacy, that is, the whole of their cultures, from the ways of the Sacraments, to Patristic tradition and the Icons, is not an obstacle to co-operation, provided that this meeting will not regard doctrinal issues and core traditions, that is, precisely what each side wants to keep by all means. Just as there is no need for us to be Muslims in order to co-operate with Muslims, there is no need to be Catholics in order to co-operate with Catholics. And just as co-operation with Muslims does not presuppose sacramental communion, co-operation with Catholics does not presuppose sacramental communion.
To limit myself to the Orthodox side, if we love indeed what brought us closer to God, which is Orthodoxy, then there is no danger for the people to be scandalised by a co-operation with Catholics, because this co-operation will not end to compromises. If we don’t love Orthodoxy, then our people will be scandalised whether we co-operate with Catholics, or not, because corruption will increase.
Catholicism is not something to be feared, but an illness to be cured. Is there a possibility of help by refusing to contact and co-operate with them in the given union of European peoples? And is any help possible if both traditions are flattened under their own union in some doctrines, a flattening that would render slowly and certainly the Orthodox paradigm invisible and meaningless? If co-operation proves impossible, only then can it be abandoned, not before it has been tried, while an official union, in my opinion, normally belongs to a future so distant, we can’t even think about it now, - to organise it, would be fatal.
To summarize, and speaking for myself, I don’t know why a Catholic would prefer to stay divided, - I do. With my contact and co-operation with them, I want to say to my children that I don’t hate Catholics, and with my denial of the union, I want to say that there is a difference here of absolute importance, making union impossible beyond anyone’s good intensions, a difference my children should not lose, but hold, love and protect, to keep and strengthen the heart of their faith, offering thus to Catholics the greatest possible help, by just being who they are.