Orthodox-Roman Catholic reunion?
I’ve noticed among some Roman Catholic bloggers recently a remarkably naive optimism about the prospects of imminent reunion between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. I’m not sure what has sparked this off, but it seems to be contagious among Roman Catholics, and it seems to make some Orthodox very nervous, to the extent that they take it seriously.
One Roman Catholic blogger did a straw poll among Orthodox to find out something about Orthodox attitudes to this Vivificat!: Sympathetic Skeptics: Lay Orthodox Christians Hold Their Ground on Orthodox-Catholic Church Reunion:
“Sympathetic skepticism” and unwavering faithfulness to Orthodox Tradition aptly describe the attitudes, some positive, some negative that the 2010 Orthodox Lay People Survey recorded from Orthodox respondents when faced with the prospect of reunion between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches. Although most respondents were remarkably open to exploring reconciliation and even for receiving a Council’s decision authorizing and enabling reunion, Orthodox respondents envisioned reunion only along strictly Orthodox theological lines, leaving little room for dogmatic diversity and with a significantly redefined notion of Roman Papal Primacy if one is to be retained at all. Despite exhaustive mutual consultation and general councils, reconciliation between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches may not take place at the grassroots, where lay Orthodox Christians reject membership within the reconciled Churches, making reconciliation a mere canonical formality without practical consequences and real liturgical communion between the Churches.
I had a look at the poll, and thought that it asked the wrong questions. The report could have been useful, but unfortunately fails to measure anything real.
Statements such as: “Despite exhaustive mutual consultation and general councils, reconciliation between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches may not take place at the grassroots, where lay Orthodox Christians reject membership within the reconciled Churches, making reconciliation a mere canonical formality without practical consequences and real liturgical communion between the Churches” are pure fantasy, with no grounding in reality at all. “The reconciled churches” do not exist, the “exhaustive consultations” have not yet taken place. It simply begs the question.
Orthodox and Roman Catholics are engaged in official dialogues about what they have in common and what their differences are, and have not got as far discussing what form any putative reconciliation or reunion should take.
There are official Orthodox-Roman Catholic dialogues, and at the moment they are looking at what held the churches together during the first millennium. There are clearly different views on ecclesiology, especially with regard to the nature of the primacy of the Pope of Rome. The Orthodox members of the dialogue group are unwilling to accept the universal ordinary jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome, and the Roman Catholics are unwilling to give it up. If (and it’s a big if) they can come to a common and mutually acceptable view then the commission would have to draw up a joint agreed statement and submit it to the synods of the various churches for approval.
Many of the questions in the Vivificat! poll seemed to be based on the assumption that such a joint agreed statement existed, and asked if the Orthodox were be willing to accept it if it were accepted by the various synods. But since no such joint agreed statement exists, the questions in the poll were in effect asking the Orthodox if they would be willing to buy a pig in a poke, and, unsurprisingly, most said they were not.
So most Orthodox would have grave reservations about reunion of the RC and Orthodox Churches as they are at present, and there is no prospect of such reunion in the near future.
As for any possible remoter future reunion, the joint commission hasn’t even discussed it, and there’s a lot of other stuff to get out of the way before they do so.