Saturday, September 12, 2009

Why Aid to the Church in Need supports the Russian Orthodox Church

Cardinal Pole has come out all guns blazing against what he sees as a terrible scandal: the Catholic charitable organisation "Aid to the Church in Need/Kirche in Not" financially supports the theological resourcing of the Russian Orthodox Church.

He writes on his blog:
I seem to recall a recent controversy over funds from a Canadian Catholic charity going towards a Latin American organisation which supported abortion, which would and should have generated outrage. But how much more outraged should we be at Church sponsorship (by an “international Catholic charity dependent on the Holy See”, no less) of schism—abortion kills the body, but schism kills the soul.

Comparing the support of the Aid to the Church in need for the rebuilding of the ecclesial life of the Russian Orthodox Church to funding an organisation that supports abortion is quite beyond the pale.

I applaud the work that Kirche in Not does, and I support them financially. They are doing good work with the full support of the Catholic Church.

We need to step back and understand what is happening here.

You all know the facts:

1. The Russian Orthodox Church is the largest non-Roman Christian communion in the world.

2. The ROC is a true Church in the proper sense, despite its lack of communion with the Catholic Church.

These two facts alone mean that if we are serious about the unity of the Church, we must be at least as serious about the ROC as we are about the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople. St Paul exhorts us (Gal 6:10) "as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith." According to Catholic ecclesiology, the Russian Orthodox belong to "the household of faith". They are not only true Christians, but they are a true Church even and especially "in the proper sense" despite the lack of full communion with us. They have true bishops, true priests, and true sacraments. They are arguably more truly a "Church" than (for eg.) the Society of St Pius X is - and look how we are bending over backward in charity to bring them back into the fold with us!

Now add a few more facts:

3. The ROC has recently emerged from the most turbulent period in its history, in which the Communists almost succeeded in eradicating not only parish life, but the life and spiritual tradition of the monasteries as well. (I spoke to Bishop Hilarion about this once - they had to rebuild their monastic tradition by consulting BOOKS because there were no monks left to speak of who could pass on their living tradition!)

4. The ROC is desparately in need of theological resources to enable it to carry out the mission of the Gospel in Russia. Christian Charity (Christian love, not "charity" in the secular sense) demands that we give the Russian Orthodox aid in their greatest need.

There has been a period of acrimonious relationship between the Vatican and Moscow. There are signs of this relationship entering a more healthy phase - and part of this improvement in relations will be the demonstration of our good faith that we are not in competition with them, but that we share with them the burden of the promotion of the Gospel and ecclesial life in Russia.

So the Russians may be "schismatics", as Cardinal Pole calls them (although more accurately, they were never in communion with us to enter into schism with us), but they are - more importantly in the eyes of God - our brothers and sisters in the faith, and by showing love to the members of "the household of God", we work towards the restoration of that communion which our Lord prayed would exist between all his disciples.


At Saturday, September 12, 2009 1:36:00 am , Anonymous An Liaig said...

The situation with the ROC is interesting. As you pointed out, there has never been a formal schism between Moscow and Rome. Also, during the communist era there was, out of necessity, limited intercommunion (both ways) while each church (Rome and Moscow) will use the "sister church" language which is rich in implications of unity. They are, of course, seperated from us in practicle terms by not recognizing the petrine office, or rather the effective functioning of that office. I pray and hope that I will live to see unity established - although the Spirit had better hurry up, I'm gettin on!

At Tuesday, September 15, 2009 9:21:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

Well, I can't say much more about this.

It's up to you, folks. You have the evidence from both sides. You be the judge between my position and that of His Eminence.

At Tuesday, September 15, 2009 10:07:00 am , Anonymous Cardinal Pole said...

"It’s up to you, folks."

Yes, speak up please, readers. What is going on here is formal co-operation in evil, namely, in the perpetuation of a schism--formal rather than just material because money is going to Russian-schismatic theological education, and that is precisely whither defenders of this strategy want money to go. But whatever good consequences one might hope to obtain thereby, the end does not justify the means--we are not consequentialists.

This scandal is indefensible.

At Wednesday, September 16, 2009 4:13:00 am , Anonymous frdamian said...

And let's not forget that we were in a relationship of partial intercommunion with the Russian Orthodox from 1969-1984. Our relationship with the Russians is made very difficult by their relationship with the Greeks (or the attitude of many powerful monks from Mt Athos towards the Church of Rome)

At Wednesday, September 16, 2009 4:51:00 am , Anonymous Salvatore said...


Evidently I was unclear in my original reply. When I referred to the “Russian Catholic Church” I was not talking about Latin-Rite missions in Russia, but about the autonomous, Byzantine-Rite, Catholic Church of Russia (aka the “Russian Catholic Church”). This latter Church is, just like the Moscow Patriarchate, truly a Church, and truly Russian. However, as it is also truly Catholic (i.e. in communion with the Holy See) it is surely the more appropriate recipient of aid from a Catholic charity?

I am also not sure I can agree with your assertion that “At no stage did the Russian Orthodox Church break communion with Rome.” Regardless of the circumstances of the foundation of the Church, they had a delegation at the Council of Florence and signed the Act of Union. The Church then repudiated the union and deposed & imprisoned the leader of the delegation (Isidore of Kiev). Surely this was an act of schism?

At Wednesday, September 16, 2009 2:44:00 pm , Anonymous Cardinal Pole said...

What is "partial intercommunion"?!?!?!?

At Wednesday, September 16, 2009 2:45:00 pm , Anonymous Cardinal Pole said...

"Regardless of the circumstances of the foundation of the Church, they had a delegation at the Council of Florence and signed the Act of Union."

Interesting point, Salvatore. The plot thickens.

At Thursday, September 17, 2009 2:40:00 pm , Anonymous Cardinal Pole said...

Last call: can anyone refute that what defenders of the A.C.N.'s sponsorship of the Russian schism are advocating is formal, and hence sinful, co-operation in one of the worst of all evils, namely schism?

At Friday, September 18, 2009 6:36:00 am , Anonymous Louise said...

I'll just say I'm inclined to agree with Pole, here.

At Saturday, September 19, 2009 6:26:00 pm , Anonymous Susan Peterson said...

I am afraid that in my heart I am a Zoghbyite and think that we are all in schism. I think we should reunite and neither side should ask the other to declare that it has been "The Church" all along.
Which was The Church, when there were two popes...or three? We just heave a sigh of a relief that that is long over and don't worry about which group of adherents of which pope represented the real Church during that time. And we should do the same with the Orthodox. This schism is temporary and in the heart of God we are still one Church.
I feel a wicked wish to deposit Cardinal Pole in the midst of Mt. Athos. They deserve each other.
Susan Peterson
ps I do think that the church is meant to have the successor of Peter at its head and that the western ecclesial model is more succesful and effective in being able to respond to the issues raised by each age, for example, contraception. Although they have done a beautiful job of preserving liturgy, I feel the eastern church is kind of drifiting otherwise without a center. But I don't see them as "not Church" . I just can't .


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