The Ratzinger Proposal (Orthodox apply here)

“The Ratzinger Proposal”, which then cardinal Ratzinger penned in 1987, in which he proposed a return to the understanding of the Roman primacy which prevailed before the Great Schism, and would not impose the formulas of the recent centuries (ie, Vatican I):

Certainly, no one who claims allegiance to Catholic theology can simply declare the doctrine of primacy null and void, especially not if he seeks to understand the objections and evaluates with an open mind the relative weight of what can be determined historically. Nor is it possible, on the other hand, for him to regard as the only possible form and, consequently, as binding on all Christians the form this primacy has taken in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The symbolic gestures of Pope Paul VI and, in particular, his kneeling before the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch were an attempt to express precisely this and, by such signs, to point the way out of the historical impasse. Although it is not given us to halt the flight of history, to change the course of centuries, we may say, nevertheless, that what was possible for a thousand years is not impossible for Christians today. After all, Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida, in the same bull in which he excommunicated the Patriarch Michael Cerularius and thus inaugurated the schism between East and West, designated the Emperor and people of Constantinople as “very Christian and orthodox”, although their concept of the Roman primacy was certainly far less different from that of Cerularius than from that, let us say, of the First Vatican Council. In other words, ***Rome must not require more from the East with respect to the doctrine of primacy than had been formulated and was lived in the first millennium. ***When the Patriarch Athenagoras, on July 25, 1967, on the occasion of the Pope’s visit to Phanar, designated him as the successor of St. Peter, as the most esteemed among us, as one also presides in charity, this great Church leader was expressing the essential content of the doctrine of primacy as it was known in the first millennium. Rome need not ask for more. Reunion could take place in this context if, on the one hand, the East would cease to oppose as heretical the developments that took place in the West in the second millennium and would accept the Catholic Church as legitimate and orthodox in the form she had acquired in the course of that development, while, on the other hand, the West would recognize the Church of the East as orthodox and legitimate in the form she has always had.

Such a mutual act of acceptance and recognition, in the Catholicity that is common to and still possessed by each side, is assuredly no light matter. It is an act of self-conquest, of self-denunciation and, certainly, also of self-discovery. It is an act that cannot be brought about by diplomacy but must be a spiritual undertaking of the whole Church in both East and West. If what is theologically possible is also to be actually possible in the Church, the theological aspect must be spiritually prepared and spiritually accepted. My diagnosis of the relationship between East and West in the Church is as follows: from a theological perspective, the union of the Churches of East and West is fundamentally possible, but the spiritual preparation is not yet sufficiently far advanced and, therefore, not yet ready in practice. When I say it is fundamentally possible from a theological perspective, I do not overlook the fact that, on closer inspection, a number of obstacles still exist with respect to the theological possibility: from the Filioque to the question of the indissolubility of marriage. Despite these difficulties, some of which are present more strongly in the West, some in the East, we must learn that unity, for its part, is a Christian truth, an essentially Christian concept, of so high a rank that it can be sacrificed only to safeguard what is most fundamental, not where the way to it is obstructed by formulations and practices that, however important they may be, do not destroy community in the faith of the Fathers and in the basic form of the Church as they saw her.
– Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1987), pp. 198-199.

What do my Orthodox buddies think of This?

It would interesting to see his latest comments are and where
" his staff" has laid ground work for common recognition of certain EAST/WEST joint agreement.

He makes a good point about being spiritually ready to make doctrinal practices binding for both churches.

Sort of Reagan/Gorbachav “agree to disagree”? 5 years later, a wall came down

It would be wonderful if the Catholic Church returned to the understanding of primacy held during the first millennium. Of course we never left the understanding of the first millennium so we have nowhere to return to. :stuck_out_tongue:

In Christ

My concern has more to do with the Church membership itself, than the hierarchy. I’d rather be viewed by Catholics as a schismic then as a second-class Catholic, as so many seem intent to view us in a situation of reunion.

But, of course, you have. If Orthodox were as cognizant of the developments in their own history and thinking as they are of the Western Church’s developments, that would be the turning point in the end of this schism.

would you then agree with the quotes from the first millennium that imply Rome had more than just a primacy of honour, but a type of supremacy?

That depends upon how these words are defined, and what the words imply.

I would be able to accept a Papacy that confined itself to the powers it could exercise in the east in the ninth century. If you want to call it supremacy, fine, but that’s just not the word that comes to mind with me.

By the twelfth century we had a lot of new things going on in Rome. I would call that the beginnings of supremacy, perhaps you would call that something else again.

The early Church certainly understood the Bishop of Rome in terms of his universal primacy. Our Orthodox brethren will have to come to terms with this of they are we are to have reunion. Hard feelings and pride must be put aside and the glory as the Church once had must be sought after.

"The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.’ . . . On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was , but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all [the apostles] are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?" (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; 1st edition [A.D. 251]).

I agree, but in fairness, listen to St. Augustine:

And this Church,** symbolized in its generality, was personified in the Apostle Peter, on account of the primacy of his apostleship**. For, as regards his proper personality, he was by nature one man, by grace one Christian, by still more abounding grace one, and yet also, the first apostle; ***but when it was said to him, ‘I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven,’ he represented the universal Church, which in this world is shaken by divers temptations, that come upon it like torrents of rain, floods and tempests, and falleth not, because it is founded upon a rock (petra), from which Peter received his name. ***For petra (rock) is not derived from Peter, but Peter from petra; just as Christ is not called so from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. For on this very account the Lord said, ‘On this rock will I build my Church,’ because Peter had said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ On this rock, therefore, He said, which thou hast confessed, I will build my Church. For the Rock (Petra) was Christ; and on this foundation was Peter himself built. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus. The Church, therefore, which is founded in Christ received from Him the keys of the kingdom of heaven in the person of Peter, that is to say, the power of binding and loosing sins. For what the Church is essentially in Christ, such representatively is Peter in the rock (petra); and in this representation Christ is to be understood as the Rock, Peter as the Church (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VII, St. Augustin, On the Gospel of John, Tractate 124.5).

I would not. :shrug:

Since you’re starting with the polemics, why must we put aside our pride and submit to you, rather than you put aside your pride and come down to our level? We don’t even ask for submission. Seems one who would refuse equality has far greater pride than one who would refuse submission.

I think it’s unlikely to happen and don’t expect to see any such thing in my lifetime.

This is a very often quoted snippet among eastern Catholics. It is presumed to have some appeal, and I must admit that, taken out of context as I have here, it does sound remarkably open minded, promising and attractive. :slight_smile:

This is the fly in the ointment. It is not so often quoted, but seems to make the ‘offer’ conditional. So then, is there a quid pro quo being suggested here? Something like a deal? … the developments that took place in the West in the second millennium are like a poison pill, sure to kill any forthcoming agreement.

What he appears to have suggested also has a contradiction within itself. How in the world is the Papacy supposed to return to it’s own first millennium role and renounce it’s own second millennium claims to power (that is the word used in the canons, power), it literally cannot do so because these have been elevated from the level of church discipline to the level of church doctrine, and his church will not be able to admit reversing itself on doctrine. (In fact, he is not really suggesting that, he is suggesting we accept the developments and therefore he cannot be suggesting a return to the first millennium role, they are mutually exclusive arguments.)

This is like a lock being snapped on the discussion by ultramontanists 140 years ago. Pio Nonno knew at the time that if they won the argument in the Council it could never be reversed in his church, and Catholic apologists now have to defend it whether they like it or not. The only way I can see that the church can go forward with a proposal like Cardinal Ratzinger’s is to degrade the council of 1870AD somehow, or, the Pope himself might attempt to use his infallible authority and universal jurisdiction to declare his own infallibility and universal jurisdiction null and void, which is ridiculous on the face of it :shrug: and probably would provoke a schism within his own church.

Of this, we have had no doubts, and as flattering as it may be we simply do not need any other church or denomination’s acknowledgment of our legitimacy.

This is not something that can be bartered over.

There was no mention of submission, just a coming to terms with the early Church’s understanding of the Bishop of Rome in terms of his universal primacy. Why do you respond as though that implies submission?

[quote=dvdjs]There was no mention of submission, just a coming to terms with the early Church’s understanding of the Bishop of Rome in terms of his universal primacy. Why do you respond as though that implies submission?

I think he was referring to OneFaith’s post #8, which was polemical. It’s interesting to me that Ratzinger’s quote (the opening post) explicitly admits that (a) the Roman Church has changed over time, but (b) the Eastern Orthodox Church has not changed over time. Here is the quote:

“Reunion could take place in this context if, on the one hand, the East would cease to oppose as heretical the developments that took place in the West in the second millennium and would accept the Catholic Church as legitimate and orthodox in the form she had acquired in the course of that development, while, on the other hand, the West would recognize the Church of the East as orthodox and legitimate in the form she has always had.”

Whoa! Time out here! If one group has changed, how can it be said to be the “original Church” ???

And if the other group has not changed, how can anyone deny that it is the original Church?!?!

Dude! Let’s go back to OneFaith’s suggestion. It looks backwards now. The group that changed – as admitted by Ratzinger himself – is the the group that should submit. They changed. Come on now.

Because Orthodox already accept a “primacy” in case of reunion. Arguing that we must means a suggestion that it is more than what we believe it is, which suggests that he is arguing the traditional Catholic view, which would be supremacy. Supremacy means submission.

So yes, in the context of the thread his argument was most certainly talking about Orthodox submission to the Pope.

When the See of Peter submits as a servant to us, we shall submit as servants to it, for that was the command of Christ, that the greatest must be servant to the least.

What “primacy”, exactly, does Orthodoxy accept in case of reunion?

The same primacy the Patriarch of Constantinople has. Nothing more and nothing less. Is that a total let down?

A side note: the Catholic recognition of Orthodox sacraments is nice, but we don’t need it. It’s simply telling us what we already know. It almost feels as of Rome believes that with enough flattery and niceities we will be so flattered that we will look to unite with it. There’s no theological reason, should Rome become Orthodox again that it MUST assume it’s previous place of honor. After 1000 of schism and heresy the liklihood that would seems almost nihl. It would be a supreme act of forgiveness and trust that would allow Rome its former place. Rome would have jurisdiction over it’s own territories and nowhere else. Arguments that couldn’t be solved elsewhere might be appealed to Rome. Rome would become a patriarchate again in communion with the other patriarchates and hold a place of honor in a best case scenario. If that isn’t enough then Rome is dreaming.

Please forgive my obvious typos- the iPhone has its limitations. :slight_smile:

Well, wait a minute. I agree that there is no theological reason for Roman primacy (the “on this rock I will build my church” argument was not the original basis for primacy), but I believe that a Council or two established Roman primacy. Is that not so? You can’t go back on a Council decision, can you?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit