Friday, July 15, 2005

All for One?

The Wall Street Journal might be the best newspaper in the world (I'm sure they're doing handstands now that they've received the coveted recommendation from the 522).

Here is a very interesting piece about unity between the Catholic and Orthodox faiths (free reg. required) All for One?

A sampling ...

It is my own Orthodox brethren who appear to be the cranky partners. Catholics have been making friendly overtures for more than a decade now. Pope John Paul II even said that the extent of papal power -- over which the two churches split in the 11th century -- could be "open to a new situation." Both churches hold as ideal a united body with Rome as "first among equals." Yet the Orthodox drag their feet, sometimes seeming downright rude. A Catholic friend tells me that the attitude seems to be: "Take this olive branch and shove it."

... more ...

When Roman Catholics look at Orthodoxy, they don't see a centralized, global institution. Instead, the church appears to be a jumble of national and ethnic bodies (a situation even more confused in the U.S. as a result of immigration). To Catholics, the Orthodox Church looks like chaos.

But from an Orthodox perspective, unity is created by believing the same things. It's like the unity among vegetarians or Red Sox fans. You don't need a big bureaucracy to keep them faithful. Across wildly diverse cultures, Orthodox Christians show remarkable unity in their faith. (Of course there are plenty of power struggles and plain old sin, but the essential faith isn't challenged.) What's the source of this common faith? The consensus of the early church, which the Orthodox stubbornly keep following. That consensus was forged with many a bang and dent, but for the past millennium major questions of faith and morals have been pretty much at rest in the Eastern hemisphere.

This has not been the case in the West. An expanded role for the pope was followed by other theological developments, even regarding how salvation is achieved. In the American church, there is widespread upheaval. From the Orthodox perspective, the Catholic Church looks like chaos.

This is hard for Catholics to understand; for them, the institution of the church is the main thing. If the church would enforce its teachings, some adherents say, there would be unity. The Orthodox respond: But faith must be organic. If you have to force people to it, you've already lost the battle; that wouldn't be unity at all.