New Pope

Dear Irenicist,

It seems that your position and understandings are going to have to be adjusted accordlingly to be more in tune with the reality within the Vatican and it’s approach to ecclesiology that you really have displayed a disconnection with.

Third, an alternative to the tensions between fragmentation and centralization in the Western church seems to present itself in the experience of the Orthodox churches. The Orthodox have come through centuries of persecution with their sense of liturgy, tradition and doctrine intact—and all without the benefit of a centralized authority analogous to the papacy. Cardinal Kasper’s approach to ecclesiology will have strong appeal to Orthodox thinkers, and it makes him invaluable for the work of ecumenism. In fact, in discussing this article, Metropolitan Isaiah, Denver’s Greek Orthodox hierarch, a friend and colleague in local ecumenical dialogue, praised Cardinal Kasper for “captur[ing] the spirit and identity of the church…as accepted by Orthodox Christianity.”
At least two obstacles exist, however, to adopting the Orthodox model as a remedy for the present condition of our local Catholic churches. Reverence for tradition in the East runs deep. It did once in the West as well. But both within and outside the church, “tradition” has been under assault for decades in the West. American culture is deeply skeptical of the old, the venerable and even of history itself. That is why the sociologist Christopher Lasch described Americans as locked in a permanent present, permanently restless, permanently eager for change. American Catholics are not immune to this weakness; in fact, quite the contrary. And while West European cultures have much longer memories, they seem no less eager to forget their patrimonies and get on with the process of secularization—which, at least in the Netherlands, now includes infanticide, assisted suicide and euthanasia. Western Christians hoping to root unity in “tradition” will at the moment be sorely disappointed.
Nor can liturgy suffice. Most practicing Orthodox experience the eucharistic liturgy as deep, organic and sacrosanct. It is the food that sustains Orthodox life. Many Western Catholics are blessed with the same devotion. But for the past 35 years we have operated on the liturgy as surgeons work on a patient—exteriorizing and objectifying it in a way that has tended to remove it from the realm of the sacred and transfer it to the realm of the functional. We’ve compounded that with disputes over language with deep doctrinal implications. To assume that we will now unite around our worship in a manner that guarantees the unity of the local churches with the universal church would be naïve.

[quote=Matthew P.]Dear Irenicist,

It seems that your position and understandings are going to have to be adjusted accordlingly to be more in tune with the reality within the Vatican and it’s approach to ecclesiology that you really have displayed a disconnection with.

I’m not sure I understand what you think the cited article demonstrates, if anything. Kasper and and the Holy Father are not so far at odds as you seem to imply. I note you didn’t quote the rest of the article:

“Cardinal Kasper, of course, does not suggest this. He understands the gravity of the opportunities and problems facing the church, and his intellect is matched by his obvious love for the church. He is also right when he says that Catholics have room both for his and Cardinal Ratzinger’s approach to ecclesiology. John Paul II opened the door in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint (1995) to a reconsideration of the form and manner in which the Petrine ministry is exercised. In fact, as one of my Greek Orthodox priest friends has suggested, “The conciliar approach, which Cardinal Kasper upholds as properly reflecting pastoral considerations, and the primatial authority of the universal church, which Cardinal Ratzinger maintains as critical to maintaining the dogmatic and doctrinal integrity of the Christian faith, are mutually complementary.”
I believe that is true. My hope is that the polemicists who will do the work of interpreting Cardinal Kasper will also take the time to share his deep faith and his loyal love for the church—the same faith and love he shares with Cardinal Ratzinger.”

You might want to take the Archbishop Chaput’s last paragraph to heart. Cardinal Kasper has never advocated an ecclesiology of “national” Churches as is currently found in Orthodoxy. He argues for more collegiality and more episcopal autonomy, but this is an ideal to which John Paul II deeply subscribed, and I suspect that the current Holy Father subscribes to it as well. Institutionally, it wasn’t the Holy Father’s role (as then mere cardinal and chief curial doctrinal guardian) to stump for episcopal discretion. His role was to clamp down on the small but significant minority who failed to witness adequately to orthodoxy (either morally, pastorally or theologically). As Pope he will be much more free to praise and empower a now more reliable episcopate. The fact that the Holy Father is 78 suggests he may not have much time in which to articulate his vision of the precise balance between primacy and collegiality, but I doubt it’s as centralizing as his critics alledge. It certainly isn’t ultramontane.


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