Rorate Caeli

Summorum Pontificum and the Orthodox

Dr. Brian Kopp of the Gregorian Rite blog has come up with a commentary on the recent rumors of an impending reunion between Rome and the Orthodox Churches, with a special focus on the possible role of Summorum Pontificum in such a reunion:
For the record, I am personally very pessimistic about the possibility of an immediate reunion between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, and, time permitting, I will explain at length the reasons behind my stance. However, this blog is not just for the opinions of the contributors, and here there is much room for a variety of opinions so long as these are rooted in a love for Catholic tradition. I invite our readers to discuss Dr. Kopp's suggestions, especially those towards the end of his article.


  1. Peter5:20 PM

    1. Roman rite in its fullest form will never be as beautiful as the Byzantine rite, so Hilarion was right.

    2. Byzantine Catholic Churches are at least in some part latinized and stricken with neomodernist iconoclasm, just like the Latin Church (see ugly, modern Byzantine Catholic icons).

    3. Orthodox still perceive Catholics as heretics, not only schismatics. The schism was "healed" at least for two times since 1054, but the unity was short-lived because there was no will among the clergy.

    4. The Orthodox came together with the Nestorians from Ethiopia recently, in spite of their obvious heresy.

    5. Those who talk about reunion probably don't understand East. No long-lasting reunion can be achieved, at least for the time being.

    Fr. Robert Taft SI has some good points:

    What it is that bothers the Orthodox so much about the idea of a Ukrainian patriarchate?
    What bothers them is the very existence of these churches. They look upon all of these people as their property that has been won away, coaxed away, forced away from them. And they’re right. But what they don’t realize is that you just cannot collapse history the way they do. It’s like going on a visit to Greece to the beach because you want to get a suntan, and some jerk points his finger at you as if you fought in the Fourth Crusade. Most Westerners don’t even know what the hell the Fourth Crusade was, and don’t need to know. You’re dealing with people who collapse history as if it happened yesterday. Let me use my classic example of the Anglicans. Does anybody think that Henry VIII took a plebiscite to see if the Catholics in England wanted to separate from Rome? No, they got up one morning and found that they were no longer Catholics. But that’s 500 years ago. It certainly doesn’t mean that the Catholic church could enter England with an army today and force all those people back into the fold. The same thing is true in Ukraine. These people, the Greek Catholics, have been in the Catholic church since 1596, and want to remain there. The Orthodox propose, and it’s hard to even take this seriously, that Eastern Catholics should be given the “free choice” of joining the Orthodox church or joining the Latin church. That’s like telling African-Americans in Georgia that because you’re the descendants of somebody who got dragged there, you can have the “free choice” of living in Albania or Uganda. Maybe they want to stay where they were born, right in the good old USA. To call that a “free choice” is a mockery of language.

  2. Peter5:22 PM

    Fr. Tafts continued:

    What we’ve made out of the papacy is simply ridiculous. There’s no possible justification in the New Testament or anyplace else for what we’ve made out of the papacy. That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in a Petrine ministry. I believe that Rome has inherited that Petrine ministry. But there’s no reason on God’s earth why the pope should be appointing the bishop of Peoria. None whatsoever. So we really need a devolution, a decentralization. The Catholic church has become so big that we need some kind of a synodal structure in the West the same way you have in the East. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops ought to be a kind of synod of Catholic bishops in the United States. They ought to be able to elect the bishops. Leave Rome a veto, if you want. By the way, this would be no guarantee of better bishops. The notion that the locals will necessarily pick better people than Rome is obviously false, as anybody who knows the East understands. But at least people will see these guys as their bishops and not Rome’s. Make your own bed and sleep in it. The pope could say: ‘You don’t like the archbishop of New York? Hey, I didn’t name him.’

    The only possible aim for ecumenism is communion. The old notion that the church begins with God, then the pope, and on down in pyramidal fashion, is gone. What we’re dealing with now is sister churches. That’s what we had before the East/West schism. Does anybody think that Rome had anything to say about who became patriarch of Constantinople? Or who became the metropolitan of Nicomedia? Of course not. These guys were bishops there just like we had bishops here, and when they met they’d say, “You’re a bishop? Hey, I’m a bishop too. How’s it going?” They were all in communion. It’s not like Rome was telling them what to do.

    To attempt to apply rational analysis to this is to fail to understand what the East is. Once you get over on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, the further you go South or East from anywhere, the worse everything gets, except the food. Logic gets worse, rationality gets worse, and everything ultimately winds up in hysteria and emotionalism. It�s futile to try and reason about this.

    Basically, there are three groups in the Russian hierarchy. You’ve got a real wacko kind of right-wing fringe. These are the ones who would agree with calling Rasputin a saint and that kind of garbage. Then you’ve got people like Kirill, who are open and ecumenical and intelligent, because he’s got an education. Then you’ve got kind of a middle group that’s very conservative but not frothing at the mouth. Kirill’s group is a very small minority. The patriarch is a juggler trying to keep all these balls in the air.

  3. Anonymous5:23 PM

    Ain't gonna happen.

    Opposition to Rome and the West is too deeply ingrained in the culture and central to the self-identity of Orthodox nations.

  4. Craig is right. Any attempt to reunite with us will only cause another schism within what is now called 'Orthodoxy'. Besides, I must add, liturgy is not the problem. The prospect for reunification was where it is now even when Tridentine Rite was dominating the West. It's not about liturgy, it's about faith.

  5. Anonymous6:46 PM

    As an Orthodox Christian myself, I am completely convinced that for the time being, it won't be any further move (I agree with Peter).
    While we deeply appreciate the liturgical revival in the Latin Church, and your latin pope concerns, we still believe the Latin church is full of novelties and doctrinal departures from Orthodoxy.
    And I say this with all respect. I always pray for a reunion. Both sides have long history, for good and for not so good. Both need conversion, and both sides are urged by Our Lord to work for communion.
    But generally speaking, in our Sobors we hear the opposite message, and a complete refusal to the "ecumenical" dialogue with Latins.
    Stefan (American Russian-Carpatho Orthodox Church)

  6. Besides, every time they want to talk, their main topic is: eliminate the Eastern Catholics, and then we'll go on... talking with you. It's like FSSPX making the first condition for talks with Rome that Rome destroys FSSP, ICR, etc.

  7. Joe B7:33 PM

    'Father, let them be one as you and I are one.' Unity requires authority and discipline.

    Christ chose his Apostles, they weren't elected.

    The Vicar of Christ may not use his authority, but he must have it or he isn't a Vicar of Christ.

    We've seen the carnage of decentralization. We have been living the nightmare of decentralization for 40 years.

    History proves that as the Vatican's authority wanes, kings become more powerful than bishops, the faith becomes thinner than water, the monasteries corrupt and disappear, and a total reform of the clergy becomes necessary. And liturgy? God help us.

    However bad it may be on occasion, centralized church authority has been used by the Holy Spirit to right the ship more times than anyone can count.

    Scripture is full of examples of Peter's full authority if he calls on it. For one, see the example of Peter, by Divine intervention, pulling in all the fish that the other Apostles together couldn't, and then contemplate the theological implications.

  8. Anonymous7:52 PM

    Even if they returned they would split in two so the problem would remain. Its up to Our Lady at Fatima to miraculously convert the Orthodox.

  9. Peter8:13 PM

    There's a SSPX Rosary Crusade going on now for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart and triumph of the Immaculate Heart. Everybody's welcome, so I encourage all who care about the Byzantines and the Latin Church to take part in it.

  10. Anonymous8:25 PM

    "here there is much room for a variety of opinions so long as these are rooted in a love for Catholic tradition"

    Interesting that this "love for catholic tradition" can been also read by moderators in this well-known "orthodox" propaganda phrase:
    "we still believe the Latin church is full of novelties and doctrinal departures from Orthodoxy."

  11. J. G. Rathkaj8:59 PM

    A "Reunion" will only be topical for them when Rome concedes unconditional surrender: curse the second millenium, lever out the papacy, abrogate the so called "novelities", like some of their cyber-zealots dun in the comboxes of catholic blogs. I'm afraid that this could happen in this ecumanical hype Rome still attaches ceaselessly.

  12. Anonymous9:22 PM

    It will take Divine intervention to bring reunite Orthodoxy and Catholicism, but remember, the prophet St. Malachi gave Pope Benedict XVI the title "Glory of the Olive." Many commentators over the past several hundred years have believed that this pope would be the great uniter.

  13. Does anybody think that Rome had anything to say about who became patriarch of Constantinople?

    Yes, for example as when Photius was deposed and the rightful Patriarch, St. Ignatius, restored.

  14. We also have the example of Pope Hormisdas deposing Patriarch Acacius.

    In those days, the pope did not directly appoint most other bishops -- but their legitimacy depended upon his assent and recognition.

  15. I spent several years in the Byzantine Catholic Rite, and even started the process for the diaconate in the local Ukrainian Greek Catholic diocese. I have immense respect for the Eastern liturgy and Traditions, but in the end I was just too "Latin" to persevere in the Eastern Rite; after Summorum Pontificum, our family's sojourn in Byzantium was no longer necessary.

    Frankly, I too am highly skeptical of any hopes of reunion on the short term horizon. Reunion would require compromises on the part of Rome that would be wholly unacceptable to many traditional Catholics.

    The false ecumenism of VII towards Protestantism earned us, in Cardinal Ratzinger's words, a "banal, fabricated" liturgy.

    On the other hand, true ecumenism with the East may be the only hope the West has of combating a far bigger schism, that of large segments of the post-conciliar church. The modern schism is undeclared and fluid, but far more deadly to Christianity than what happened in 1054.

    Would it not be ironic if, in God's Providence, it was the healing of the Great Schism of 1054 that ultimately led to the healing of the undeclared yet far greater schism of the last 40 years and its false "spirit of VII"?

    In my opinion, the resolution of the SSPX problem, the Great Schism of 1054, and the post-VII undeclared schism, are all intertwined and interdependent, and they all somehow relate to the Message of Fatima.

  16. "Interesting that this "love for catholic tradition" can been also read by moderators in this well-known "orthodox" propaganda phrase:
    "we still believe the Latin church is full of novelties and doctrinal departures from Orthodoxy.""

    If you will take my remarks in context, I am referring to the posts, not the comboxes.

    To be more precise: if we choose to feature, on the main page of the blog, a contribution or an essay -- in this case, Dr. Kopp's -- and bring it up for discussion, even though it is not in line with a contributor's opinions, it is because it is still rooted in love for Catholic tradition.

    Needless to say, we have different rules for news articles.

  17. Orthodoxy2:05 PM

    "Unfortunately today there are still some Catholic missionary bishops who consider Russia as missionary territory. But Russia, Holy Russia has already been enlightened with a centuries old faith which, thanks be to God, was preserved and passed on in the Orthodox Church, and is not missionary territory for the Catholic Church."

    The above is a quote for His Holiness Patriarch Alexy, RIP.

    Mr. Kopp what you don't seem to understand is that the meetings happening now between Bishop Hilarion and Pope Benedict XVI are that of a social alliance if you will. Bishop Hilarion is very worried about what he deems "militant secularism" in Europe and wants to form an alliance with the Roman Catholic Church. But this alliance is not a theological one:

    "The work of the bilateral commission will not be an easy one and is likely to continue for many years to come. My fear, however, is that by concentrating exclusively on the dividing issues we are likely to lose precious time that could be used for a common witness to the secularized world. Europe, in particular, has so rapidly dechristianized that urgent action is needed in order to save it from losing its centuries-old Christian identity. I strongly believe that the time has come for Catholics and Orthodox to unite their efforts and to defend traditional Christianity, which is being attacked from all sides. In twenty, thirty of forty years it may simply be too late.

    This is precisely why I propose that a European Catholic-Orthodox Alliance is formed in order for the official representatives of the two churches to be able to elaborate a common position on all major social and ethical issues, and to speak with one voice."

    You can read more about it here if you like:

  18. The views of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy, while worthy of respect, do not dictate the agenda of Patriarch Kirill I. Neither does the (at times, false) sense of collegiality that marked the Papacy of Pope John Paul II dictate the agenda of Pope Benedict XVI.

    Patriarch Kirill I and Pope Benedict XVI are their own men, responding to far different realities than their predecessors.

    And the difference of only a few years can change a millenium of impasse, given the urgency of the battles looming for Christianity.

    Therefore, that which may have been unthinkable only 5 years ago may be necessary for the very existence of Christianity today.

    My hope is that both traditional Catholics and traditional Orthodox will be able to see this and accept it, if Patriarch Kirill I and Pope Benedict XVI decide, in response to the grave challenges they both face, to forge closer ties which ultimately lead to reunion.

  19. Orthodoxy6:53 PM

    Mr. Kopp:

    With all due respect, either you lack knowledge of Orthodoxy and its theology, or you lack knowledge of Roman Catholic theology, because they are 2 very and I stress VERY, different theologies/spiritualities. There are some in Orthodoxy that would say, the 2 are very different REALITIES. Understand that the Orthodox will never sell out their Faith, their theology, not even for "social" concerns. Nor will they "lessen" it or compromise it in anyway. The Faith is first. That is why Bishop Hilarion made it a point to say that divisive topics were not going to be discussed during any meeting with Pope Benedict XVI otherwise nothing will get accomplished.

    I pointed out Patriarch Alexy's remarks because your posts stems from a hope in Fatima. Patriarch Kirill is just as adament about Roman Catholics NOT proselitising the Orthodox. That is what Fatima is about is it not? Converting the Orthodox? The Orthodox will not have it.

    Perhaps you might read some of the pages on the web site I linked to in order to get a better understanding of Russia's position.

    Gospodi pomilui.

  20. Anonymous11:08 PM

    Did no one notice the error in Peter's post?

    The Ethiopian Orthodox are not Nestorians. In fact, they were converted by the Coptic Orthodox Church, home of Nestorius' most determined opponent, St. Cyril of Alexandria.

    How did such a blatant error escape everyone's notice?

  21. In fact, they were converted by the Coptic Orthodox Church, home of Nestorius' most determined opponent, St. Cyril of Alexandria.

    Converted from what?

    I think Peter confused Nestorianism with Eutychianism (Monophysitism), which has long been a problem in the Coptic and Ethiopian Churches. St. Cyril was neither Nestorian nor Eutychian.

  22. On further reflection, Peter could have been referring to Nestorians in Ethiopia, without saying Ethiopian Christians are all or mostly Nestorians. But it would be the first I've heard of Nestorians having any significant presence in Ethiopia. The chief Nestorian church is the Assyrian Church of Iraq.

  23. Peter1:52 PM

    Yes, I was talking about monophysitism. Sorry for the confusion.

    To Orthodoxy:

    1. Byzantine theology and spirituality is considered legitimate by the Catholic Church as long as it doesn't contradict Catholic faith.

    2. The Orthodox won't sell their faith to the Catholics, to be exact, but when considering civil authorities or nationality, it's not the case. Ethnocentrism haunts Byzantines. See questions of jurisdiction in Ukraine.

    3. Fatima is about "consecrating Russia to the Immaculate Heart". The conversion is one of the graces resulting in it. Yes, to be converted you have to believe in all articles of faith.

    But remember that there are more Orthodox countries than Russia ("Holy Russia", "Third Rome" - ethnocentrism again), and not even whole Russia is Orthodox. There was strong presence of other religions (like islam), and probably contemporary Russia believes mostly in secularism.

    Also it's a prayer, not some magic. And it's up to God to decide.

    4. Orthodox accuse Catholics of proselytism while not respecting the western "canonical territory". Probably if Russians had not sent Poles, Balts and other Catholics to Siberia there would be no Catholic activity in that region, but that's another story.

    Why was Orthodox Bishop of Vienna established? Why Orthodox Church of Portugal was founded? Why the Orthodox have come to Southern Italy, claiming they want to "revive the Byzantine heritage" of this region, while the Byzantines still live in Southern Italy and never lost communion with Rome?

    BTW, proselytising non-latin Catholics is forbidden for the latin clergy by canon law, under severe penalties.

    I appreciate the Byzantine theology, liturgy and spirituality, and I pray for unity (and conversion), and I encourage everybody to do the same. But for the moment, humanly speaking, I don't see such possibility, because there's no such will on the side of the Orthodox bodies (not necessarily Russian), and probably neither on the side of Catholic ecumaniacs (who are afraid of offending anybody but God).

  24. For better or worse, any decisions will be made by the respective hierarchies, Catholic and Orthodox, and not by their adherents and apologists on the internet or in obscure monasteries.

    At one time, the Orthodox could point to maltreatment of easterners at the hands of westerners as a historical trump card to undermine any true efforts at ecumenism.

    With the complicity of the Orthodox in the soviet genocide of Ukraninan Catholics last century, they can no longer play this trump card, so the old animosities no longer stand as an excuse to avoid the demands of Christian unity.

    That is "REALITY."

  25. Brian,
    Just a very quick reply. I think that the accusation against the Orthodox for complicity in the Stalinist crimes against Ukrainian Greek Catholics is not fair. What you regard as the Russian Orthodox Church at the time was little more than a prop and window dressing. The real Orthodox Church was mainly underground being martyred by the millions.

    Accusing us of complicity is a bit like accusing fellow victims of the same criminal because they held a member of the family at gun point and made them do things which they should have died before doing. But alas out of human weakness not all Orthodox embraced the martyrs crown, just as there were Catholics in similar situations who chose survival and collaboration.

    I give thanks to God I have never been put in that situation and tested. And I am very careful not judge others in their weakness. I would hope that had I been in such a circumstance that I would have had the courage to choose martyrdom. But that's an easy thing to say from the comfort of my home in a relatively safe and democratic country.

    Where I do freely admit that Roman Catholics have very just grounds for complaint though is at what has happened since the fall of the Communists. The Russian Orthodox Church should have at once repudiated the forced union of the Greek Catholics and returned their property. That they did not do so is a great sin and a blot on the honor of the Church.

    Under the mercy,

  26. That was an excellent reply, John. After spending so much time with Ukrainian Greek Catholics, I guess I have become myopic on the larger issues you describe. Thank you for taking the time to share these insights.

  27. Anonymous5:23 PM

    The complicity of the Orthodox with state authorities in forced liquidation of Greek Catholic churches goes back to Czarist times and continued through the Communist era. Persecution of Greek Catholics continues in the post-Communist era, for example in Romania. It is a long-established pattern that has never been repudiated, and for which not even the thinnest apology has been offered. Indeed, we still hear excuses and, in some quarters, the explicit denial of the right of Greek Catholic Churches to exist.

    Please, no more excuses.

  28. ". . . Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I with his Synod realize that this gesture of justice and mutual pardon is not sufficient to end both old and more recent differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Through the action of the Holy Spirit those differences will be overcome through cleansing of hearts, through regret for historical wrongs, and through an efficacious determination to arrive at a common understanding and expression of the faith of the Apostles and its demands. They hope, nevertheless, that this act will be pleasing to God, who is prompt to pardon us when we pardon each other. They hope that the whole Christian world, especially the entire Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church will appreciate this gesture as an expression of a sincere desire shared in common for reconciliation, and as an invitation to follow out in a spirit of trust, esteem and mutual charity the dialogue which, with God's help, will lead to living together again, for the greater good of souls and the coming of the kingdom of God, in that full communion of faith, fraternal accord and sacramental life which existed among them during the first thousand years of the life of the Church."

  29. I am amused by the phrase "consecrate Russia to the Immaculate heart of Mary" -- a perfectly meaningless phrase to the Orthodox. Just another example of parochial terminology. We Orthodox just don't talk like that. We don't have Immaculate hearts and consecrations to them. The Fatima apparitions sound odd and foreign to us. If anything, I would think the Patriarch of Moscow should be "consecrating" Portugal (and Western Europe) to the Theotokos , considering their present state of belief.
    Fr. David


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