Papacy & Schism

Are not the Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, and the Assyrian Church of the East in some sense still a part of the one true church? If so, how does this affect doctrinal development that has occurred in regard to the papacy (such as the development in understanding of the papacy that occurred with Vatican I) and other areas of church life after the schism when development cannot occur universally with all the churches involved? How does this work with schism in the church? Is there not a sense in which all sides of the debate have been sinful and contributed to the schisms?

This is sometimes confusing to me from the Catholic perspective, but I run into similar problems from the Eastern Orthodox perspective, although it may not be exactly related to doctrinal development per se. For example, the Oriental Orthodox have been misunderstood in some ways. I don’t think they disagree with Catholics and the Orthodox on the divine and human nature of Christ, though they have a different way of explaining it. From the Eastern Orthodox perspective, however, they don’t accept all seven ecumenical councils. But from the Oriental Orthodox perspective, while they do not essentially disagree with the underlying theology of the fourth through seventh councils (EO only accept seven), those councils were only local because they occurred without the participation of the Oriental Orthodox and thus could not have ecumenical authority. The Assyrian Church of the East feels this way about the third thorugh seventh councils.

This is why when I feel confused about Catholicism and some of the theology Eastern Orthodoxy is not a perfect solution to me – there is more than one Eastern communion of Christians with similar theology who are in schism. How can the church really be one?

In the end, I guess a person just has to pick one of these communions and go by faith. I don’t think reason alone can resolve these seemingly unending theological and ecclesiastical conflicts. If it comes down to faith, I guess I would go with Rome because Western theology and prayer tradition is more in line with me personally, comes to me more naturally and easily. It seems to me that would be what I would progress in spirituality the most rapidly. (I say I’d go with Rome because the Western Latin rite is the largest tradition in Catholicism and what is available to me – Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholicism are not accessible to me, another complication to my dilemma. If I thought Eastern Orthodoxy were the right church for me, I still don’t have that option.)

I suppose this thread has gone into distinct issues, but I think they are related. I hope it is not too convoluted. Any advice would be appreciated.

Merrick #1
Are not the Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, and the Assyrian Church of the East in some sense still a part of the one true church? If so, how does this affect doctrinal development that has occurred in regard to the papacy (such as the development in understanding of the papacy that occurred with Vatican I) and other areas of church life after the schism when development cannot occur universally with all the churches involved? How does this work with schism in the church? Is there not a sense in which all sides of the debate have been sinful and contributed to the schisms?

I guess a person just has to pick one of these communions and go by faith.
(I say I’d go with Rome because the Western Latin rite is the largest tradition in Catholicism and what is available to me – Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholicism are not accessible to me, another complication to my dilemma. If I thought Eastern Orthodoxy were the right church for me, I still don’t have that option.)

To “pick one of these Communions” requires the reality of facts – reason and faith.

Only Christ’s Church was given His authority through His Supreme Vicar St Peter. Christ’s clear mandate was recognised from the very first. The evidence from the historicity of the Gospels, and the early Church confirm the primacy of authority and the infallibility of the Pope as defined by Vatican I, and the infallibility of an Ecumenical Council confirmed by the Pope.

All four promises to Peter alone:
“You are Peter and on this rock I will build My Church.” (Mt 16:18)
“The gates of hell will not prevail against it.”(Mt 16:18)
“I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven." ( Mt 16:19)
“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” (Mt 16:19)

Sole authority:
“Strengthen your brethren.” (Lk 22:32)
“Feed My sheep.”(Jn 21:17).

Christ’s clear mandate was recognised from the very first. The evidence from the historicity of the Gospels, and the early Church confirm the primacy of authority and the infallibility of the Pope as defined by Vatican I, and the infallibility of an Ecumenical Council confirmed by the Pope.

The third successor of St Peter, Clement, wrote to the Catholics of Corinth in A.D. 95: “If any man should be disobedient unto the words spoken by God through us, let them understand that they will entangle themselves in no slight transgression and danger… Render obedience to the things written by us through the Holy Spirit.” (I Clem. ad Cor. 59,1). This Is The Faith, Francis J Ripley, Fowler Wright Books, 1971, p 151; 139-141].

“Schism” is a disagreement over leadership (authority). “Heresy” is a disagreement over Doctrine.

The usual explanation to reconcile the “Catholicity” of East and West is that the Orthodox are in schism (because they reject the universal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome), but they are not in heresy (because they accept everything that is doctrinally important).

But, in the late 1800’s, the Catholic (Latin) Church changed the equation by defining Papal infallibility (in the First Vatican Council). This is now certainly a Doctrine of the Catholic (Latin) Church, but it kinda also makes the Orthodox into heretics.

If we accept the idea that the Pope can teach infallibly, and this is the Doctrine of the Catholic (Latin) Church, then anyone who disagrees with this doctrine is not a schismatic, but a heretic. How can East and West possibly reunite?

That’s the problem with infallibility. It will guarantee that the Truth is taught, but it will NOT guarantee that it is taught when it ought to be taught. I think that Papal infallibility was taught before its time. It drives another wedge into reunification with the East.

Ultimately, it comes down to whether you believe the pope is the leader of the Christian Church. If yes, everything falls into place. If not, there is more study to do. I have recently learned some things which leaves me directly on the fence in regard to the Pope, so I am conducting more study to ensure I know what and why I believe what I do.

Tradition can become just as confusing and practically impossible to interpret as Scripture can. Who can sit around digging through ancient ecumenical council’s trying to piece it all together? It can become almost impossible. That is why the tradition has to be alive. Living and breathing. There has to be a teaching authority now that can explain Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. We have to have an authority on the pressing moral issues of our time and on new theological challenges. We cannot simply rely on hundreds of year old documents and are often skewed interpretation of them.

That is the biggest flaw in Orthodoxy. They have a sacred tradition, but not a living magestirium.

This is why we need the Catholic Church.

There is no question that the primacy of Peter and the Bishops of Rome was recognised from the beginning of Christ’s Church and infallibility in doctrine was accepted from the beginning also – possessed by His Church – “He who hears you, hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” (Lk 10:16). [See Mt 28:20; Jn 14:16-17, 26; Jn 16:13].

Having commissioned Peter as His first Vicar, Jesus instructed the eleven and proclaimed: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations….teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” (Mt 28:18-20)

It was Yves Congar who mistakenly said that papal infallibility was only a germ in the record of the High Middle Ages. And On This Rock, Fr Stanley Jaki, OSB, 1987, Trinity Communications, p 117]. Yet Fr Jaki shows that the reality of the infallibility of the Bishop of Rome was expressed even by Protestant theologian Adolph von Harnack, with reference to the first century!

Those who know nothing of history can now learn from history. The Infallibility of The Vicar of Christ has never been disputed in Christ’s Church, from the beginning.

About Pope Victor I’s declaration by edict, about the year 200, that any local Church that failed to conform with Rome was excluded from the union with the one Church by heresy, none other than Adolph von Harnack admitted that Victor I was “recognised, in his capacity of bishop of Rome, as the special guardian of the ‘common unity’… " (See And On This Rock, p 118, 1987, Trinity Communications, Fr Stanley L Jaki).

Already, Peter had exercised his supreme authority in the upper room before Pentecost to have Judas’ place filled. At the first Apostolic Council of Jerusalem Peter settled the heated discussion over circumcising the gentiles and “the whole assembly fell silent” (Acts 15:7-12). Paul made sure that his ministry to the gentiles was recognised by, Peter (Gal 1:I8).

Harnack asked: “How would Victor have ventured on such an edict – though indeed he had not the power of enforcing it in every case – unless the special prerogative of Rome to determine the conditions of the ‘common unity’ in the vital questions of faith had been an acknowledged and well-established fact?”

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