Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Speaking of Sedevacantists

Richard's perceptive comment, point two. (Here's point one.)

Although I know this will drive some of my readers crazy, as I often joke with traditionalist Roman Catholics: We Orthodox are sedevacantists, too; we just disagree on the time of the vacancy. :)

Yes, I recognize friends of mine have other ideas...and that's their right, as it is my right not to share their views. It's not a cause for ill-will or reaction. In my far-from-perfect reading of the Church, I simply do not at this time believe their concepts reflect the historical mainstream of Orthodoxy. I believe membership in the visible Church requires the three-fold unity of doctrine, faith, and communion. (And if my friends can demand that of the vagantes, they can demand it of Rome.) As such, Rome lacks a pontiff, and we ought to get about supplying the vacancy.



Blogger Ben said...

So... I guess you've lost all hope in a reunion of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches?

2:07 PM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Hello my namesake!

I guess you could say I'm impatient for an Orthodox Papacy: I'm ready to appoint one right away. :)

Honestly, I'm a Christian, and with God all things are possible. But a true reunion in the truth of Orthodoxy (from an Orthodox perspective) would require quite a bit of movement on the Pope's part, and I don't know that he's interested in moving in that direction; I know many of his North American subordinates are (what's the opposite of "interested"?). While it could happen, I'm not holding my breath.

Thanks for checking out the blog, and I hope you'll drop by again. In the meantime -- Proverbs 22:1.

God bless,

4:59 AM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Oops; as I pointed out on the blog, while rejecting a redundant comment (someone hit "submit" twice), I inadvertantly erased a comment from Subdn. Benjamin Andersen. As I consider this at least a serious venial sin, I hope to atone by posting the three points I remember from his post. I hope he'll repost his original, or let me know if this is a fair representation. Again, sorry.

1. He wrote that at one time, the WRV made an outreach made to SSPX, which got nowhere, because SSPX aren't sedevacantists and think we're schismatics.
Comment: Yes, SSPX thinks the Vatican is "whoring in the dirty bedsheets of ecumenism" with us as it is. They want the Pope to be more imperial and less "conciliar," as do most RCC Sede's. The WRV might provide the stray SSPX an introduction to Orthodoxy, but as a body it's hostile. My reference to "outreach," though, was a continuation of the previous post, on Anglicans.

2. Subdn. Andersen would "cringe" at being "associated with those looneys" (Sedevacantists).
Comment: Quite a few Sede's seem to wear a tin foil-lined biretta. Thank goodness we don't have that in Orthodoxy. ;) I'd hope they would sober up on several issues while investigating the historical claims of Orthodoxy and embracing the faith in its fulness (a necessary prerequisite for joining the WRV, natch).

Of course, they aren't all "looneys" (nor would it the greatest act of charity to mention it if they were). As you know the priest at St. Augustine's, Msgr. John Mangels (IMHO, a genius) started his journey to Orthodoxy in embryonic form when a nun "told us about the Polish National Catholic Church and the Old Catholic Movement in Europe" and he was "puzzled yet fascinated by these Churches which were 'Catholic Churches' yet not part of the Roman Catholic Church."

3. He also wrote that it's debatable that we're the original Sedevacantists, and there is a range of opinion in Orthodoxy from "Oh yes there is a Pope, he's just been removed from the diptychs" to "The Pope is no better than a witch doctor." (These, I'm pretty sure, are exact quotes.)
Comment: There is some debate, and these are two incredible extremes -- IMHO, both indefensible. The mainstream of Orthodoxy, quite wide and deep, holds that the Pope would have to be part of the Church in order to be part of the Church, and he cannot be a ruler of the Church without being in the Church. And that he is not in the Church, because he does not believe the faith of the Church and is not in communion with the Church. (Some of the vagantes are closer, as Fr. Mangels' case demonstrates.) I find this mainstream view on-the-mark; others can hold to their own consciences. I could be wrong, but I'd be in good company.

Anyway, Provbers 22:1 to you, too, my friend.

God bless,
The other-other Ben (still atoning)

5:53 AM  
Blogger Ad Orientem said...

The reason that we can not appoint a bishop of Rome is because we don't know if the See of Rome is in fact vacant. Until such time as a Great Council convenes and resolves this issue any and all opinions, however strongly held, about the nature or standing of the Roman Catholic Church in relationship to Orthodoxy (beyond their not being in communion which is fairly indisputable) are theologumen. And since the MP and the EP appear unable to agree on the time of day (or at least the correct date on the calendar) I am not holding my breath on that council.


10:46 AM  
Blogger BJA said...

Against my better judgment (of entering into arcane theological debates during Lent) I challenged the whole Orthodoxy as sedevacantism idea. Now (again, against my better judgment) I will add a couple of things.

I think that John (Ad Orientem) has the exact right idea. I'm not questioning the idea that Rome and the Eastern Orthodox Churches are not in communion. I don't see how anybody (EO or RC) could seriously challenge this.

That we are not in communion is a given. What this means for vestigia Ecclesiae - including sacramental grace, and authentic episcopate/priesthood (even if we hold that these are somehow "deficient" and need to be "completed") is another matter entirely. This is a gigantic gray area. It would be a mistake to say that Orthodoxy has an official take or even a predominant viewpoint on this topic (as if the authentic Orthodox viewpoint is established by some kind of survey). Ecclesiology is a very underdeveloped branch of Orthodox theology. Only very recently have Orthodox theologians begun to reflect in depth on an understanding of the One Church vis-a-vis other Christian communities.

Different theologians have come to different conclusions (theologoumena), as is their right since (as John pointed out) the Church has not definitively spoken. There is no magisterial Orthodox position™ here. We don't have a uniform way of receiving folks from Roman Catholicism (despite the canonical theories of Nicodemus the Hagiorite). The famous essay of the slavophile Khomiakov, so often held up as somehow the magisterial Orthodox position™, is simply one take on understanding the Oneness of the Church in relation to the divisions of Christendom. Florovsky's article on the limits of the Church is another take. Other representative Orthodox thinkers from different eras have made some very liberal statements recognizing major vestiges of the Church outside of her visible boundaries. The monks of Mount Athos and many Old Calendarists have a very rigorist take. Most of us are somewhere in between and probably fall in the "agnostic" category. I am left of center on the issue.

This is why I do not like the language of "sedevacantism" as applying somehow to the whole of Orthodoxy. Sure, some Orthodox will say that as a result of the schism the Latin Church is not a Church, does not have grace or a priesthood, and therefore there is no real "Bishop" of Rome. That's one Orthodox take, but even this is not equivalent to the theory of the RC sedevacantists. The eccentric "sede" position is only possible within the context of late medieval, Counter-Reformation Roman Catholic ecclesiology.

In other words, it's a whole different world. Do we really want to be identified with these folks, even nominally? I understand that you are attempting to show some analogy between the Orthodox position and the RC sedevacantists on the See of Rome. But there is no Orthodox position™ here. "Sedevacantist" is not descriptive of the Orthodox position on the Church of Rome, and furthermore it is not helpful for the Orthodox cause (unless we Orthodox are all about negation of Rome, playing perfectly into the common RC stereotype about Orthodoxy).

That's all I have on the topic. If I were a more humble man, I would be able to say, as does Father Reardon, that such topics are way "above my pay-grade".

10:09 AM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Hi Subdn. Ben,

Of course there's an Orthodox postition, and as usual, the Greeks wrote it. (Scroll down to: "The Orthodox position".) :))

Seriously, to briefly state my own position (and only my own): I think it is possible to establish, within theologoumena, their underlying bases, theological patrimony, and acceptance within Orthodoxy. It's helpful to do so, if only for historical reasons. In my imperfect reading, it's impossible to separate the Church from communion. In my reading, Khomiakov and the Athonite monks were no more rigorist than St. Cyprian of Carthage or St. Ignatius Theophilus of Antioch, to cite but two examples.

It seems to me your view of the RCC as somehow vestigially part of the Church (although it is out of communion with it and has been 1,000 years) is at odds with your view of vagantes and Pseudodox (Milan Synod, etc.). Some of these exotic groups were once in communion with genuine Orthodox, within the last millenium. If you accept one, I fear one must accept all. (Or perhaps I misunderstand your position on them?)

With that said, at the risk of violating one of my own standards, I'm going to beg off a big discussion on this, myself. We've had our discussions on the ecclesiological ontology of Rome in the past: quite frankly, I don't think you've said anything new in your post (nor given new sources to substantiate them), and I don't really have anything new to say to you, either. Why make ourselves crazy during Lent?

However, this post and others (by another blogger) have inspired another (and to me, honestly, more interesting) future post on a topic only tangentially related.

Wishing you all the joys of Lent (and more fruitful discussions on other topics),

9:21 PM  
Blogger BJA said...

In my imperfect reading, it's impossible to separate the Church from communion.

Oh, I agree entirely. I just wonder about are different forms, levels, shades of communion (for lack of better or more precise terminology). Obviously, there is no full communion between Orthodoxy and Rome, but I don't think that this is the same as saying that there is absolutely no possibility of lesser and imperfect forms of communion.

It seems to me your view of the RCC as somehow vestigially part of the Church

I don't think I said this in my last comment. I referred to "vestiges of the Church" which is a tad different from what you say here ... although I am able to look at many things in the Roman Church and recognize that, well, there's definitely something "of the Church" over there (one could do this even with Protestant sects, though to a much, much lesser degree). These things are certainly "of Christ" and not "of the devil." Where Christ is, there is the Church, even if it is in a somewhat diminished or defective form.

at odds with your view of vagantes and Pseudodox (Milan Synod, etc.).

I don't know where I've publically stated my exact ecclesiological views on folks like the Milan Synod. I have no strong opinions about their precise ecclesial or sacramental status. They're not in full communion with the canonical Orthodox Churches. As such they shouldn't identify themselves as "Orthodox". I invite them to come into communion. This involves no judgment about the possibility of existence of grace or sacramental reality among them. If I entered one of their churches, I would probably genuflect before vagante tabernacles, just as I do when I enter RC churches, for fear of not showing proper honor to Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

quite frankly, I don't think you've said anything new in your post (nor given new sources to substantiate them)

A com-box is not exactly the best place to provide copious substantiations. I don't claim that my position is based upon overwhelming evidence, but I don't think that it's entirely without support in the Orthodox tradition. At the very least I consider it to be a legitimate opinion, well within the boundaries of the tradition.

With that said, at the risk of violating one of my own standards, I'm going to beg off a big discussion on this, myself.

I agree. This is my last response, then I'll shut my big mouth. :-)

5:12 PM  

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