"It's not my fault"

The Mac "Breakthrough" ad captures in a humorous way precisely "The Spirit of Catholicism" as personified by the many "apologies" that Pope John Paul II made during his pontificate.

Here's how one Orthodox priest received those "apologies":

"In any event, the Pope did not apologize on behalf of the Roman Church for anything, did he? Instead, he asked God to forgive some sons and daughters of the Roman Church who were involved in some wicked acts. That is not exactly an apology....And we, in fact, can go one better than the Romans, because the Romans cannot admit that their Church as Church, the Papacy, the Petrine institution actually did wrong... only certain sons and daughters of the Church did wrong. But we are free to say that our Church as an institution has been wrong-headed or syncophantic or mean or obtuse or unjust or nasty - from the very top down. (In this regard, the recent words of the Patriarch of Moscow concerning the persecution of the Old Rite, and asking forgiveness in the name of the Russian Church, was utterly refreshing)....

The issue isn't history. It is ecclesiology. The point is, may I reiterate, that the historical atrocities committed by 'westerners' - and the attempted subversion of our Churches by the 'agents of Rome' - ONLY took place BECAUSE the Roman Church saw the Orthodox world as 'other', as "not-subject-to-Rome" and therefore as "not-truly-Christian." Thus we became the legitimate object of the Roman imperative: persuasion, evangelization, subordination, domination.

If Rome had seen us as fellow Christians, sister-Churches, as the local Church wherever we were when they arrived in our home places - there would have been no theory and excuse to justify or sanction atrocities and polemics, no need for persuasion, evangelization, subordination, domination. So the issue is not really one, or only one, of grievances concerning historical acts - we have enough historical acts for which we need to repent, too - but one of fundamental theological vision, of ecclesiology. 'That is truly and only the Church which subsists in communion with the See of Rome' says Rome. Period.

In fact, in this address of the Pope, the universalist pretensions of Rome are implicit in everything the Pope read out....
(Written to an Orthodox internet list as a commentary on a Rod Dreher opinion piece published in the May 8, 2001 edition of The Wall Street Journal entitled "When Will the Orthodox Learn to Love the Pope?")


Sean and Stephanie said...

You do realize that ecumenical discussions between Rome and Constantinople are gaining almost daily right? The schism of 1054 will be repaired in our lifetime.

The question is...why celebrate schism? Why not instead hope for unity?

Your blog celebrates in the 500th anniversary of a horrible wound to the body of Christ. Regardless of whether you are Protestant or Catholic, you must admit that schism like this isn't good and is not what Christ would have for his church. Now you get excited when you find an article written by one Orthodox priest (from 2001!) that highlights the schism of 1054. The funny thing is that you pretty much disagree with the Orthodox as much as you do Rome (if you understood what the Orthodox believed)...but 'any enemy of my enemy is a friend of mine...' Right?

John Bugay said...

Ecumenical discussions are happening all over the place. What you call a "horrible wound," others call a breath of freedom.

I am interested in setting aright what historically has been a terrible wrong.

It is Rome's historical quest to become and to remain "at the first seat" that has caused horrible wounds to the body of Christ.

"When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this person,' and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place."

Sean and Stephanie said...

So all particular churches should be equal then? No head?

Is that your quest?

John Bugay said...

No Sean. You have a bad, bad habit of jumping all over the place.

Rome is the worst offender. My point is to address the worst offender, until that problem is solved.

I realize there are other problems within Christianity.

Sean and Stephanie said...


I think you are just excited that somebody is actually posting a comment on your blog.

I am not 'jumping all over the place', just taking your positions to their logical conclusions.

John Bugay said...

So in your view, saying that "Rome is not the head" somehow logically leads to saying "all particular churches should be equal"?

Sean and Stephanie said...

John...help me figure your conclusion then.

What is the perfect picture of the Church on earth for John Bugay. If you could create it in your image what would it look like?

John Bugay said...

What makes you think I need to have an image of a "perfect church" in my mind? Isn't "making things better" a worthy goal?

Sean and Stephanie said...

I want to know what you think the church should look like. You insist that it has no head. I know that. Since you are good at saying what the church should have and should not have than I am all ears to what your vision of the church is.

John Bugay said...

Christ is the head. That is scriptural. So we can with confidence then say what the "head" is not. And saying what something is "not" is a valid way of understanding, especially with regard to this topic.

"The fractionation in Rome [that is, the physical size of the city, the distance between the various first and second century congregations, which Lampe describes in detail] favored a collegial presbyterial system of governance and prevented for a long time, until the second half of the second century, the development of a monarchical episcopacy in the city." (Lampe, 397). And during this time, these presbyters "quarrel among themselves about status and honor" (Hermas Vis.3.9.7ff and Sim. 8.7.4-6). Even at this time there (150 ad) is no "primus" among these "pares."

Moffett gives an account of how one early Christian community rejects the idea of a monarchical bishop, even as late as the third century:

It was not tradition but pragmatic and sometimes sordid ecclesiastical and political developments that eventually elevated the bishop of the Persian capital, Seleucia-Ctesiphon, to headship over all the Church of the East .... As late as 270, the small group of Christians in the capital had no bishop, much less a catholicos (or patriarch). In that year, ..., the Christians of Seleucia-Ctesiphon beggged Shaklupa, "bishop" of Arbela, who was visiting them, to choose and ordain their first priest, which he did. About twenty years later, perhaps between 280 and 290, the two bishops of Arbela and Susa, deciding that it was now fitting that the capital city should have its own bishop, elevated its priest, Papa-bar-Aggai, to the rank of Bishop. At least one of the two consecrating bishops, Miles of Susa, was soon to regret it. Papa the Arameaean, as he was called, became the storm center of the first major power struggle to threaten the unity of the Church of the East. Finding himself bishop of the royal city and overcome with "intolerable pride" (as it seemed to bishops from other centers of the faith), he brashly proposed that even the bishoprics whose incumbents had so recently elevated him to the episcopacy, Arbela and Susa, now be made subordinate with all others to the bishopric of the capital, thus for the first time creating a national head for a church in which all bishops had been considered equal. The result was uproar.

At a council presumably called about 315 and named the Synod of Seleucia, although no official records survive save in references from later councils, Papa met humiliating defeat. Led by Miles, Bishop of Susa, which was a more ancient royal city than Seleucia-Ctesiphon, the gathered bishops bluntly rejected Papa's pretentions to supremacy. In his youth Miles of Susa had taken seriously the challenge of Jesus to the rich young ruler and had given away his entire inheritance to feed the poor, taking up for himself the hard life of an asccetic. Now he pointedly reminded the ambitious Papa that the gospel calls to servanthood, not supremacy.

Good-bye, "sacramental succession."

Of course, I see no further need to respond to your demands for information. I have learned that in dealing with you, that giving you an honest answer is tantamount to throwing my pearls before swine, in that you constantly misrepresent and exaggerate what I actually say.