On Reunion Between East & West

June 2008

When we published Joseph P. Bonchonsky's guest column "With God in Russia" in our November 2007 issue, little did we expect that it would stir up a hor­net's nest of negative reaction. We received several letters in response to Bonchonsky's column -- all of which we printed (in the Jan., Feb., April, and May issues). A few questioned our motives; in one case, calling us out for "veering…into the direction of the devastating ecumenism that has resulted, undeniably, in the compromised faith of millions…" (Dr. Robert Carballo, Jan.) That's a charge we don't take lightly. We responded to these letters, where necessary, to defend our decision to publish Bonchonsky's column. (Bonchonsky replied, as well, to some of the more personal charges questioning his faith.) There was also a smattering of positive letters.

Not everyone who forms an opinion on the material we publish has the time or the inclination to write a letter to the editor. We generally assume that those who do write letters speak for more than just themselves. We don't doubt that a number of our readers wonder why we chose to publish Bonchonsky's column, which Willard King (Jan.) termed an "unabashed propaganda piece" for the Russian Orthodox Church. Others, on the other hand, have applauded Bonchonsky's column. And there are undoubtedly some for whom the whole topic is simply uninteresting. (Those readers may want to skip to the next New Oxford Note.)

At the risk of further exercising those who are opposed to Catholic gestures of reunion toward the Orthodox Churches, we would like to explain why we believe reunion between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches is a worthy pursuit, and why it should be the foremost focus of Catholic relations with other ecclesial bodies.

But first it is important to distinguish between "reunion" and "ecumenism," the latter a practice inimical to traditional Catholics. Briefly, ecumenism found its modern genesis in the 1910 World Missionary Conference, a Protestant effort to foster unity between the various denominations and splinter denominations in their missionary efforts. The Conference led to further grandiose efforts to promote doctrinal unity a­mong Protestants, including the Faith and Order Movement, and the Life and Work Movement. These efforts at Protestant ecumenism soon sank into a mire of modernist ideas, and appeals to pan-Christianity and the "branch theory," in which each denomination represents a branch of the elusive One Christian Church. (The One True Church is, of course, the Catholic Church, and it is incorrect to suggest that Protestant communities are her "branches.")

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New Oxford Notes: June 2008

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Dear Sir:

How can one talk responsiby about Orthodoxy without mentioning Vladimir Solovyev?

Please add these points to your list:

Fifthly, Orthodoxy is a nationalist Church, be it Russian, Serbian or Greek! Let me quote Solovyev:

“Throughout the history of the great Eastern heresies, extending over five centuries from the time of Arius to that of the last Iconoclasts, we constantly find in the Empire and Church of the East three main parties whose alternating victories and defeats form the framework of this curious evolution. We see in the first place the champions of formal heresy, regularly instigated and supported by the imperial court. From the religious point of view, they represented the reaction of Eastern paganism to Christian truth; politically, they were the declared enemies of that independent ecclesiastical government founded by Jesus Christ and represented by the apostolic see of Rome.[…]

“At the opposite extreme to this heretical party, trebly anti-Christian -in its religious doctrine, its secularism, and its nationalism-we find the absolutely orthodox Catholic party engaged in defending the purity of the Christian idea against all the pagan compromises and in championing free and world-wide ecclesiastical government against the onslaughts of C
“But it was neither the declared heretics nor the genuinely orthodox who controlled for many centuries the destinies of the Christian East. The decisive part in the story was played by a third party which, although it occupied an intermediate position between the other two, was dis-tinguished from them by more than mere verbal subtleties; it had a clearly defined aim and pursued a well-considered policy. The great majority of the higher Greek clergy belonged to this party, which we may call semi-orthodox or rather 'orthodox-anticatholic'. These priests held firmly to orthodox dogma, either from theoretical conviction or from force of habit or from devotion to the common tradition. They had nothing in principle against the unity of the universal Church, provided only that the centre of that unity was situated in their midst; and since in point of fact this centre was situated elsewhere, they preferred to be Greeks rather than Christians and accepted a divided Church rather than the Church unified by a power which was in their eyes foreign and hostile to their nationality. As Christians, they could not be C
“Formal and explicit heresy was regarded with horror by these pious gentlemen, but when it pleased the divine Caesar to offer them his own version of orthodox dogma, they did not scrutinise it too closely. They preferred to receive a revised or incomplete formula at the hands of a Greek Emperor rather than accept the truth pure and intact from the mouth of a Pope… (Russia and the Universal Church, Introduction).

Sixthly, Orthodoxy is a Caesaropapist Church. Let me quote Vladimir Solovyev, the Russian mystic again

“In 1885 an official document emanating from the Russian Government declared that the Eastern Church had resigned its authority and placed it in the hands of the Tsar. Few people noticed this significant utterance. the Church, only served by its isolation to throw into relief the deplorable state of religion in Russia. Indeed, the Cresaropapist manifesto of the officials of St. Petersburg was merely the explicit admission of an established fact. It is undeniably true that the Eastern Church has abdicated in favour of the secular power; the only question is whether it had the right to do so and whether, having done so, it could still represent Him to Whom all power has been given in heaven and earth. Whatever violence may be done to the Gospel passages concerning the eternal powers left by Jesus Christ to His Church, they will never yield any mention of the right of surrendering those powers into the hands of a temporal authority. The authority which claims to take over the Church's mission on earth must have received at least the same promise of stability.
We do not believe that our prelates have willingly or deliberately sur-rendered their ecclesiastical authority. But if the Eastern Church has in the course of events lost that which once belonged to her by divine right, it is clear that the gates of hell have prevailed against her and that therefore she is not the impregnable Church founded by Christ.
Nor do we wish to hold the secular government responsible for the anomalous relation of the Church to the State. The State has been justified in maintaining its independence and supremacy in regard to a spiritual authority which only represented one particular national Church in sepa-ration from the great Christian community. The declaration that the State should be subject to the Church can only refer to the one, indivisible and universal Church founded by God.
The government of a separated national Church is only a historical and purely human institution. But the Head of the State is the lawful repre-sentative of the nation as such, and a body of clergy which aims at being national and nothing more must, whether they like it or not, recognise the absolute sovereignty of the secular government. The sphere of national existence can include within itself only one single centre, the Head of the State…. (Ibid, Part I, Ch. IX)

Posted by: blueskies
July 22, 2008 12:32 AM EDT
By the way, in light of Solovyev’s comments (and in those quotes I just scrathed the surface!), I suggest to review the last sentence: “The question among us should not be whether we should proceed, but how we are to proceed.” The simple answer to this is that “it takes two to tango!” And Moscow does not seem to be interested, unless they provide the music!

Unquestionably, the two Churches have developed in a loop sided way, and we need some of the spirit and the spirituality of the Russian people. But don’t we have a similar spirit and spirituality in Mr. Bonchonsky's own Byzantine Catholic rite, or the Uniate Church? Why don’t we encourage them to teach us their kind of spirituality! They have managed to survive without the modernist infiltration and the Free Masons occupying high pisitions. They did not even have their priests involved in the child sex scandals!

Also, why are we sacrificing the Uniate Church on the altar of pursuing the stubborn OrthodoxChurches? Haven’t Mr. Joseph P. Bonchonsky heard of the BALAMAND DECLARATION?
This declaration is nothing but the sure death-sentence for the true "Sister-Churches" of the Latin Catholic Church, the Catholics of the Oriental rites. In June 1993 a "Joint International Commission" of high ranking Latin's and Schismatics met in Balamand, Lebanon, and declared that the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches are now considered as 'Sister-Churches' "the Form of 'missionary apostolate' which has been called 'uniatism' can no longer be apostolate' which has been called 'uniatism' can no longer be accepted." They are responsible together for maintaining the Church of God . . . There is no question of conversion of people from one Church to the other in order to ensure their salvation" Catholics may no longer work in areas of Orthodox Jurisdiction, and Catholic Charity organizations are to fund Orthodox projects. This is ecumenism's response to Moscow's demands that Uniatism and the Uniates be finally crushed, especially in Western Ukraine, Romania and Armenia.

To reform the Church, why do we have to swallow a poison pill that the Blessed Mother warned against in Fatima! Did we lose faith in the re-forming power of the Church? Or lost faith in the power of the Holy Spirit? Or forgot Fatima?

With the best intentions, I think NOR is making a grave mistake in pushing for re-union with a Caesaropaist Church. The apostolic succession and valid ordination is not enough justification!
Posted by: blueskies
July 22, 2008 01:57 AM EDT
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