Monday, February 09, 2015

Metropolitan Hilarion calls for a 'strategic alliance'

Metroplitan Hilarion is in charge of 'external relations' for the Russian Orthodox Church. A recent talk gives a good summary of his thinking on relations with both Protestants and Catholics. This passage is particularly relevant to the Catholic Church.

I would like to say that today the Orthodox and Catholics encounter the same challenges which the modern age has thrown down to the traditional way of life. In this instance we are dealing not with theological issues but with the present and future of the human community. This is precisely the area in which we can interact without harm to our ecclesiastical identity. In other words, in not being one Church, in remaining divided by various theological and ecclesiological issues, it is possible for us to find ways of interaction which allow us to answer jointly the challenges of the modern-day world.
I would call this form of interaction a ‘strategic alliance’ between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, although the word ‘alliance’ may appear to some to be too strong as it is reminiscent of military rhetoric. I am concerned not by the term but by the content. We are not speaking of some form of structural unification which is impossible at the present time but of how, in preserving independent and self-sufficient administrative structures, we can learn how to act as allies in relation to the external world. I believe deeply that this relationship as allies is essential for us both.

It is essential in particular for joint actions in the defense of Christians from discrimination, oppression and violence, to which they are subjected throughout many countries, primarily in the Middle East and North Africa. The events of the so called ‘Arab Spring’ have led to a sharp escalation of violence towards Christians. Militants belonging to radical groups have initiated against Christians a full-scale, deliberately intentioned genocide. In the territories that they hold, extremists are aiming to wipe out totally all traces of a Christian presence. Christians are being killed simply for being Christians, no matter what their confessional allegiance. Christian women are being raped, children are being kidnapped, and ancient Christian churches and monasteries are being destroyed.

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  1. Maybe I am too critical. But the message I get is that no one really cares about truth anymore. What is important and paramount is survival. Hence, it is important, they say, that we set aside differences on our view of truth and work together to fight those who threaten our survival.

    But what happens to the truth while we are fighting together? I think it will be anathema for anyone to bring out the fact that our beliefs are different. Anyone who wants to raise up that point and discuss will be silenced to maintain peace in this collaboration. This is not merely something that might happen but something that needs to happen in order for such collaborations to last. Everyone will have to turn a blind eye to the glaring differences in what each hold as true.

    I think such collaboration only leads to a decline in the true Church. Protestants can welcome and tolerate more levels of doctrinal diversity/dissent than either the Orthodox or Catholic Church. They will appear the hero to the average Christian and more are likely to adopt a Protestant view of Christianity as a result.

    My only question for those who are coming up with such "collaboration" ideas is the following. Why didn't the early Church decide to set aside differences when they were confronted with heresies (Novatians, Dualists etc)? By the reasoning employed by the Orthodox Metropolitan, they should have set those aside to stand together against the Roman and Jewish persecution. But that is not what they did. Are we now wiser than the first Apostles?

    The feel I get from all of this is that most of the prelates in either hierarchy do not seem to think the truth as important. They are willing to compromise it for survival.

  2. This is what I think. How about the Russian Orthodox Church prelates and anyone else who wants to participate in this "strategic alliance", first try to find the truth instead of trying to just survive? At the end of the day, if either of them have been teaching an error as the truth, that is going to put their eternal future in jeopardy. If they sincerely decided to look at the evidence, many who are sincere can then unite under the true faith. Subsequently, there will also be no need for fragile strategic alliances.

  3. Yes, the likely outcome will be a fudge. Maintain the doctrine, but ignore those who practise contrary to it. This will apply also to homosexual practises, and possibly to many other sins. Why not?

    The issue of resistance has been raised. So far this is hypothetical. The Catholic way is to express clear Magisterium teaching, wherever. Namely that those in a state of mortal sin, including the divorced and remarried and anyone in an active homosexual relationship for instance, may not receive Holy Communion other than under pain of further mortal sin. Anyone knowingly giving Holy Communion to those who are apparently in such a condition, is complicit in the mortal sin.

    Now you will be reviled, as I was the other night. Amongst the relativist reformers there is what can be called a “fascist” mentality developing particularly with those who want to have there cake and eat it but also with some clergy and bishops. If this gets a bit discouraging, remember Matthew 5 : 11.

    The real danger is that the Church will slip into open schism as profound as the Protestant Reformation.

    As for liturgy, well my pet theory is that in circa twenty years, traditional priests will be the majority and all this will therefore sort itself out. The Catholic Church in Continuity will progress forward from there.

  4. Maintain the doctrine, but ignore those who practise contrary to it.

    In some parts of the Church, clergy are doing a good deal more than merely "ignoring" them, I'm afraid.