Some Ecumenical Straight-Talk

May 2004

There was great excitement about ecumenism after the Second Vatican Council. But the enthusiasm has turned to boredom, because it's been all talk and little, if any, action. Ecumania is burning itself out. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church's bilateral ecumenical dialogues just go on and on and on, like some government agency charged with regulating and inspecting buggy whips. The buggy-whip regulators are quite content because they're employed and getting paid. It's a nice, cushy job. And the bishops and theologians involved in ecumenical dialogue are also quite content, because they get to jet-set around, be wined and dined in gourmet restaurants, and in general are made to feel very, very important. Another nice, cushy job.

Obviously, it's time to have sunset laws inserted into ecumenical dialogues. A sunset law is one which automatically terminates at the end of a fixed period (but may be renewed, only if needed). We should immediately renegotiate all ecumenical dialogues, inserting a sunset law of, say, 12 years (for the 12 Apostles). If no significant progress is made after 12 years, the dialogue is automatically ended. The Catholic Church has better things to do than waste her time on endless and inconclusive gabfests.

While we wait for the sunset laws, it would sure be refreshing if we could get some straight talk from the people involved in these dialogues, instead of the usual diplomatic bafflegab. Happily, we found someone who's willing to tell it like it is. His name is Fr. Robert Taft, S.J., an expert on Eastern Orthodoxy, a veteran of Catholic-Eastern Orthodox dialogues, and currently at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. Yes, a Jesuit. For our money, Fr. Joseph Fessio is the leading straight-talking Jesuit, but he may have met his match.

Fr. Taft was interviewed by John L. Allen Jr. in the online version of the National Catholic Reporter's "Word From Rome" (Feb. 6; The interview was prompted by Walter Cardinal Kasper's then-impending visit to meet with the Patriarch of Moscow, Alexy II, regarding the delicate matter of the erection of a patriarchate in Kiev for the 5.5 million Greek Catholics in Ukraine, the largest Eastern Catholic Church in communion with Rome. Here are excerpts from the interview:

Q. Aside from Orthodox sensitivities, is there any argument against erecting a patriarchate in Ukraine?

A. Oh, good heavens, no...

You have two options:

  1. Online subscription: Subscribe now to New Oxford Review for access to all web content at AND the monthly print edition for as low as $38 per year.
  2. Single article purchase: Purchase this article for $1.95, for viewing and printing for 48 hours.

If you're already a subscriber log-in here.

New Oxford Notes: May 2004

Read our posting policy Add a comment
YES YES YES YES!!!!! Catholics should stop walking around on tip-toe for fear of offending someone. Does the Congregation for Bishops have Father Taft's dossier? Posted by: Fr_Richard
August 08, 2006 07:39 AM EDT
I have many orthodox friends. They will never change to the Catholic Church whatever their Hierarchs do. Their basic tenet is just who do Papal Catholics think they are? They cannot make dogma or doctrine. When it comes to the Immaculate Conception even though it is in the Liturgy of St John Chrsysostom, they will never admit to it. We had no right to put it in writing is their statement. Original sin is wrong they say our vicarious writing that we must be punished for sin is wrong. This is different depending upon which orthodox group you challenge. St Augustine is a heretic he is a mysoginist ans what does he know about grace anyway. It comes down to this as I have discussed with one of their theologian hierarchs. You have no central authority for your theology and you yourself write what you want without correction. No matter what I say to you you disclaim it as the original greek does not mean that. He then promptly changed Immaculate in the liturgy to pure.
Posted by: mike hurcum
August 08, 2006 11:22 AM EDT
mike hurcum: huh, say what? Posted by: nortemp
August 08, 2006 11:45 AM EDT
I couldn't follow hurcum either.

Our conversations with the Orthodox are the only ones that could bear any real fruit at this point, inasmuch as we share the essentials of the Faith, a valid priesthood, and valid sacraments.

Other confessions -- Anglicans, Lutherans, and the like -- cannot be negotiated with. Their positions over the years on matters of faith are subject to change. Who can agree on anything with these people, when they can't agree themselves?
Posted by: manwithblackhat
August 08, 2006 08:36 PM EDT
It is not only about negotiation; it is about CONVERSION. And in this respect, Mike Hurcum is right on the mark : the Orthodox are much less likely to convert than others. It is ironic, since they are the closest to us in theology. But that is how it goes in many cases. And I have never in my life come across people who are more stubborn and sensitive than the Orthodox. We are more likely to get converts from atheism or Anglicanism -- people that truly realize they are lacking something -- than from the Orthodox, from whom I constantly read disparaging remarks about "the West" (that means all of Western Europe, including Rome and Roman Catholicism). They go on and on about how their culture is different from ours. I'm sure it is : but is the salvation of your soul less important than your culture? There are plenty of Africans and Asians who humbly submit to the Catholic Church, and there cultures are VASTLY different from "the West." So why can't the Orthodox? I believe it will require the miraculous conversion of Russia brought about (please God, as soon as possible) by the papal/episcopal consecration of Russia to Mary's Immaculate Heart (demanded by Our Lady of Fatima) to bring the Orthodox over to Rome in great numbers. Pray every day for this consecration to occur. Posted by: Mike Ezzo
November 12, 2006 10:03 PM EST
Add a comment