Thursday, March 02, 2006

Pope no longer Patriarch of the West

I really don't know what to make of the Pope's decision to drop "Patriarch of the West" from his resume. If, as the Holy Whappers believe, this move signifies a first step in distinguishing his jurisdictional role over the Western Church from the Petrine role over all of Christendom, then it seems perfectly legitimate and reasonable given the our mission to restore unity with the Eastern Church. Pragmatically, however, if this is just the first step in dismantling Papal jurisdiction over the entire Latin Rite the world over, I fear we're in for chaos.

Many have noted that the ideal scenario is that we'd have multiple patriarchs around the world, eg. one for Latin America, one for Africa, one for Asia, or what have you, just like they do in the East. The problem I have is that this sentiment seems to ignore history. The churches currently under the jurisdictional authority of Rome are not like the Eastern autocephs which are to their credit, for the most part, guided by Christ from within, ie. from a profound reverence for the "unchanging" nature of the Divine Liturgy. Inculturation for the East is judicious and organic, not ideological or manufactured. They haven't really needed an extrinsic authority figure to tell them what to do with the Liturgy. Sure, there have been a few messy bumps and flareups with the Old Calendrists, etc. But they have what the West lacks: a Patristic and Apostolic passion for Christ in the Liturgy.

The Latin Rite churches all over the world, by contrast, have grown so used to receiving guidance and discipline from Rome, I think the Liturgy will run amok for decades if Rome abandons jurisdictional control of the Mass, creating more schisms, before any apostolic normalcy is restored. Just look at how the Western churches have mutilated the Mass post-V2, even with all the formal directives from the Vatican.

The best counterargument is exactly what I've mentioned - that top-down management of the Liturgy obviously invites an extrinsicist view of what constitutes the local church, and hence dissent and resistance against the dictates of Rome. The East has done remarkably well for 2000 years without a unitary centralizing power. But that begs the chicken and the egg question: Can the dispersal of jurisdictional power actually cause greater respect for and adherence to the Apostolic Tradition? Or is it only an effect of some other preexisting cause?