Saturday, April 28, 2007

Getting the East

Weigel on the hullabaloo over on Mt. Athos against Pope B16's overtures to the East:
The truth of the matter is that, outside historically Orthodox countries and certain ethnic communities, the thought of how one stands vis-à-vis the Patriarch of Constantinople simply doesn't enter Catholic heads. Perhaps that's a problem, but it's nowhere near as great an obstacle to ecumenical progress as the conviction in some Orthodox quarters that non-communion with Rome is a defining characteristic of what it means to be "Orthodox."
Unfortunately, this only reinforces the East's view of Catholics as ecclesiologically clueless. Quite simply, the Athonite monks are not anti-Rome per se, and they certainly are not defined by their anti-Romanism the way Protestants as a whole are. In fact there's still a palpable nostalgic affection for the "true Rome" of the Fathers that's mixed in with the healthy bile some Athonites are coughing up. Today Rome does symbolize all that is "heretical" in Western Catholicism, and it's the heresies that get them in a tizzy. But it's always simpler and more self-congratulatory to paint the Orthodox as an older, prettier version of Protestantism when it's not. It's also convenient because it shifts all the burden of change on the East which now has to to "loosen up" or "get over" their irrationally anti-Roman prejudices if Ut Unum Sint is to become a reality.

I care about this only because I hate it when Protestants misconstrue Catholic intentions and beliefs in general, as well as on the ecumenism issue, eg. "intercommunion." So to see Catholics carry on with the same methods of rhetorical misrepresentation towards the Orthodox is particularly disappointing, especially when it comes from "orthodox" Catholic commentators like Weigel who should know better.

And Earth to Catholics: the "Two Lungs" metaphor has worn itself out into some "can't we all just get along?" ethic, pace JPII. I really don't think he intended it to be mindlessly and casually plugged into every conversation on RC-EO relations. Catholics can get so attached to the lace -- the frilly turn of phrase uttered by a pope which when taken out of context becomes its own substitute for substance.