Captain Obvious, Meet Clueless Man

So, it turns out the Pope is Roman Catholic, huh.  What a shock.  I suppose the next thing we’ll learn is that the earth is a sphere and not flat.

The media must think that Rome has never declared itself the one, and only, true Church. And, of course, they are playing up the notion of how offensive this declaration must be to everyone else. ‘Cuz, gosh, we all know that the primary thing of utmost importance is to never, ever, for even a teensy weensy moment, hurt someone’s feelings.

It does, of course, seem odd that HH Benedict XVI would state it so starkly given the late John Paul II’s penchant for the use of the term “sister churches” and the “two lungs” analogy (both of which, of course, implicitly call into question Rome’s claim to be the one true, visible Church). But, that is, nonetheless, what Rome has been claiming for centuries: she and she alone is the one true visible Body of Christ.

It is interesting, given recent exchanges between myself and the blogger at Cathedra Unitatis–and my post linking the discussion at Perry’s blog–that this declaration would come out into the media when it did. But it illustrates an important point.

That point is made by the Pope himself. Orthodoxy is not the one true visible Church, because it is defective. And in what is it defective? It has apostolic succession. It has the sacraments. It teaches the Gospel. What’s missing? That’s right: allegiance to the Pope as supreme bishop of the Church.

One call talk all one wants in flowery ecumenical language. One can form and support and maintain “fraternal relations.” One can lift anathemas, and so forth. But it comes down to this one point: the Orthodox Church teaches and has always maintained that the Roman see has a place of primacy (honor, respect, some authority), but it does not have a place of supremacy. The episcopacy, for Orthodox, must be collegial, in which no single bishop rules the others, but that all come together in mutual accord. Orthodox believe that this models the relations of the Trinity, the historical and biblical evidence, and is, in fact, the life of the Church. To make one bishop supreme among all others is to distort this collegiality, with ramifications for other aspects of Christian belief.

I have found it to be the case often in the online world that Orthodox are denigrated and judged for being so abominably stubborn. Roman Catholics will say something like, “Come on! We call you sister churches. We call you the other lung. We admit you have grace. We admit you have apostolic succession. We admit you teach the Gospel. Isn’t that enough? Why hold out on this pope thing? After all, you admit to a primacy of honor. How is that different from what we ask you to join us in believing about the Pope?”

Well, is the Father supreme over the Son? Doesn’t that teach essential subordinationism? Isn’t subordinationism a heresy? Then how is it that one bishop, who partakes of the life of the Trinity along with all the other bishops, elevate himself above his brother bishops such that all must subordinate themselves to him? How is that all the bishops have one head, who is Christ, but all the bishops save Rome also have another earthly head, the occupant of the Roman See?

No, Orthodox resist on just this point precisely of the distortions it brings into the common life in Christ of us all.

For a few Ortho-blogger reactions:

Clay, over at All Saints Forum, guesses that he was wrong.
Fr Stephen, is glad that we cleared that all up.
Reader Christopher gives three cheers for clarity.
James implicitly asks, does a bear wear a funny hat? (No, wait, I’ve got the joke wrong.)

3 thoughts on “Captain Obvious, Meet Clueless Man

  1. Mr. Hahn and a number of evangelicals who have swum the Tiber have rather latched onto this interpretation. Problem is, I’ve seen no evidence that it predates the Reformation. The earliest I have seen it is in Discours XXXII that Francis De Sales wrote in his campaign for the “Old Faith.” They did not find wide distribution it seems until edited and published in the 19th century.

    The Douay-Rheims and its commentary, done to win English away from the King as supreme govenor of the church in England, shows nothing of it, and calls Eliakim “A Type of Christ.” Mr. Hahn attributes it to Cajetan, but does not cite him (although he cites Luther). As usual in these situations, Mr. Hahn stops short in quoting Isaiah 22: “25 In that day, says the Lord of hosts, shall the peg be removed [i.e. Eliakim], that was fastened in the sure place: and it shall be broken and shall fall: and that which hung thereon, shall perish, because the Lord has spoken it.

    Btw: “Clement of Rome, about 96, writing to Corinth about this disunity, “But if any disobey the word spoken by him, Peter, through us.” ” I’m afraid Mr. Hahn has interpolated here: Peter is not mentioned in such a context. The quote used says “…For, as God lives, and as the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost live—both the faith and hope of the elect, he who in lowliness of mind, with instant gentleness, and without repentance has observed the ordinances and appointments given by God— the same shall obtain a place and name in the number of those who are being saved through Jesus Christ, through whom is glory to Him for ever and ever. Amen.
    If, however, any shall disobey the words spoken by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and serious danger…”

    I also notice that Mr. Hahn doesn’t address the Orthodox interpretation. We are less than impressed.

    Although this post is old, I came across it looking up the hullabaloo over the Vatican’s statements on the “defective” Orthodox and dropping the title “Patriarch of the West.” Now the Phanar is talking about pushing for the “Great and Holy Council” in 2012, where the “diaspora” and the diptychs are supposed to be regularized. The upshot is with Rome having been out of the diptychs nearly a millenium, and a Romanian Orthodox bishop with his seat in Rome and a Greek Metropolitan of Italy, Rome finally may officially be dropped from the diptychs for good. From the stand point of Orthodox ecclesiology, that neither Bp. Siluan of Rome and Met. Gennadios of All Italy is in communion with Pope Benedict XVI poses no problem. That they represent two Orthodox jurisdictions (Romania and Constantinople. Btw, the EP has canonical jurisdiction over Italy, but that has nothing to do with canon 28) poses the problem the G&H Council is supposed to solve, and in doing so will be breaking up the Patriarchate of the West into Episcopal Assemblies and deleting the primate of Rome offically from the diptychs. How’s that for “defective”?

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