PopeWatch: Fool’s Gold



The official reason for the trip to the mid-East is that eternal chimera of popes:  union with the Orthodox:

But the official purpose of the visit is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic rapprochement between Catholics and Orthodox and to try to restore Christian unity after nearly 1,000 years of estrangement.

Meeting in Jerusalem in 1964, Pope Paul VI and Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras set a milestone: They started the process of healing the schism between Eastern and Western Christianity of the year 1054.

Moves toward closer understanding followed, but differences remain on issues such as married clergy and the centralized power of the Vatican.

It was the current Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I — known as the “first among equals in the Orthodox church” — who asked Francis to join him in Jerusalem.




Go here to NPR to read the rest.  Popes have taken these types of initiatives many, many times over the past thousand years and they always come a cropper on one rock hard fact:  the Orthodox, at least those who call the shots in the various Orthodox churches, are simply not interested in union with Rome.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. Why do we want union with the Orthodox anyway? Their teaching on divorce and marriage is contrary to Christ’s. Over the years, they have shown they prefer the turban (to be under the rule of Islam) rather than the mitre (the Papacy) . They refuse to obey the tradition that Peter is the Rock the Church is built upon. Because of this, their churches are fragmented on ethnic and nationalistic lines because they don’t have one single man in charge they can refer doctrinal and other controversies to have them settled. That ‘first among equals’ bit just doesn’t work in the real world unless the first is in charge.

  2. I note with irony what Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church is reported to have said regarding this visit between Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis:

    “Because Patriarch Bartholomew had not consulted with other Orthodox leaders before scheduling his meeting with the Pope, he would be acting on his own behalf, not as a representative of the world’s Orthodox faithful. Although the Patriarch of Constantinople is traditionally recognized as the “first among equals” in the Orthodox hierarchy, the Russian Orthodox argues that he exercises that primacy only when other Orthodox patriarchs explicitly authorize him to do so. In the absence of such a mandate, Metropolitan Hilarion said, Patriarch Bartholomew will be representing only his own particular church, the Patriarchate of Constantinople.”


    Patriarch Kirill wants Moscow to be the Third Rome and Vladimir Putin, a former communist whose predecessors murdered the Czar – Caesar, wants to become the new Czar – Caesar. Oh the irony!

    Indeed, Steve Dalton is correct:

    “…their churches are fragmented on ethnic and nationalistic lines…”

    PS, and the Third Rome HATES the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church precisely because it IS in union with the First Rome and because it has supported Euromaidan.

  3. Yes Steve Dalton. I say true oecumenism means shared truth. Which means: “all you patriarchs and Protestants capitulate!

  4. Stephen E Dalton wrote, “their churches are fragmented on ethnic and nationalistic lines.”

    But, at the same time, they preserve a remarkable unity of doctrine, discipline and worship.

    As for divorce and marriage, they assert, with us, against the Reformers, that it is a sacrament and indissoluble and St Basil the Great and St John Chrysostom are their doctors, as a nodding acquaintance with the Pedalion [Πηδάλιον] will show.

  5. M P-S, what “remarkable unity of doctrine, discipline, and worship” are you talking about? “Remarkable unity” is worthless unless one is in union with Peter. the whole history of the Eastern Churches shows that even in pre-schism times, they were always having one doctrinal dispute after another. The only thing that kept them from staying in serious error was the continued interventions of the Bishop of Rome aka the Pope. When they finally rejected that authority in 1054, they lost the one thing that kept them on an even keel for centuries. So God gave them the turban (Islam) to submit to instead of the mitre. (The Pope)

    If the EO’s respect the sacrament of marriage, why do they allow a member to be married and divorced up to three times? The last time I looked, the Catholic Church only allows one marriage in a lifetime, unless death or an annulment takes place. Yet, you tell me with a straight face they claim marriage is indissoluble? Sorry, but three strikes and you’re out is not a part of sacred tradition! BTW, the Pope was reputed to say that 50% of all Catholic marriages where invalid. I think that is a misquote, but, for the moment, let’s say it’s true. If 50% of all Catholic marriages are invalid, how many EO marriages are invalid, by Catholic teaching, because of the three strikes policy of the EOC’s? Think about that for a moment. If we achieve some sort of ‘unity’ with the EOC’s, how in blazes are we going to handle that mess? I shudder to even think of it!

  6. Steve Phoenix
    The “liberal values” to which they now appeal is precisely that “freedom of conscience” they once rejected. Having manifestly failed to convert the Church to their way of thinking, they now claim tolerance.
    As for Fr Hans Küng, whilst I reject those teachings of his that have been condemned by the CDF, I leave him personally to the Rt Rev Felix Gmür, Bishop of Basel, who, hitherto, has not seen fit to withdraw Fr Küng’s priestly faculties, nor has he been required by the Holy See to do so.
    Stephen E Dalton
    The Orthodox Church has always taught the uniqueness of marriage; following the teaching of St Paul and of the Fathers it disapproves of second marriages and permits no more than three, even if they have all ended by death.
    As for re-marriage after divorce, the Holy Canons forbid it and no Orthodox hierarch or theologian has ever taught otherwise. A canon is a “rule” or “guide” for the service of worship, the sacraments, and the governing of the Church. According to the Orthodox, an “economia” is “the suspension of the absolute and strict applications of canon and church regulations in the governing and the life of the Church, without subsequently compromising the dogmatic limitations. Orthodox theologians insist that this is allowed for exceptional and severe reasons, but creates no precedent. It cannot be that the “economia”, which was necessary in a specific situation, should become an example and should be later retained as the rule. This, I say, is their teaching and it reflects a practice in the East going back to at least the Code of Justinian of 535.

    In that sense, they do continue to teach that marriage is indissoluble, however they depart from it in practice, unlike the Reformers who taught the contrary. Hence the rather curious wording of the 7th canon of the 24th session of the Council of Trent: “If any one says, that the Church has erred, in that she has taught, and teaches, in accordance with the evangelical and apostolical doctrine, that the bond of matrimony cannot be dissolved on account of the adultery of one of the married parties…let him be anathema” They wished to condemn the Reformers, but not to anathematize the Orthodox

  7. Union with Eastern Orthodoxy is not going to happen anytime soon. The Russian Orthodox Church, the largest by far of Eastern Orthodoxy, and the Greek Orthodox Church will likely never accept any union with Rome. Eastern Orthodoxy is and has been fragmented upon ethnic and nationalistic lines for centuries.

    As stated, the Eastern Orthodox have managed to preserve their liturgy and traditions, far better than the Latin Catholic Church.

    The ROC will throw out one excuse after another for not meeting with the Pope. John Paul II was Polish and Russians don’t like Poles. Benedict supported the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the ROC hates their existence.

    To be fair, the Latin Church (many may ask – what Latin?) has treated the Eastern Catholic Churches badly in the US, which is another focal point of the ROC. Archbishop Irleand was nasty to Fr. Alexis Toth, who subsequently left and founded the Orthodox Church of America. In the 1920s the Latin bishops of the US asked for and got a Papal bull forbidding married Eastern Catholic priests in the US, because the Latin bishops thought married clergy was scandalous. Never mind that the Union of Brest-Litovsk (Ukraine) and the Union of Uzhorod (Rusyns) were guaranteed the right to continue using their liturgies and traditions, including married priests. This Papal bull caused a huge rift in the Byzantine Catholic Church. Lawsuits were filed. Parishes and families were torn apart. The American Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox church was founded out of disaffected Rusyn Byzantine Catholics. My neighbors belong to ACROD. Pittsburgh was the epicenter of this fight, as the Byzantine Metropolia and their seminary is here.

    Unlike most of the USA, I live within 15 minutes of two Byzantine Catholic parishes, a Ukrainian Greek Catholic parish (who just received a married pastor with six kids) a Maronite Catholic parish and a Syro-Malabar Catholic mission. It is well worth learning and knowing the Eastern churches.

  8. M P-S, I don’t think you know all that much about Orthodoxy. I looked up several Orthodox web sites, and every one of them said they allowed divorce and remarriage. I can’t see were you can claim their understanding is traditional. The teaching of the Catholic Church on this subject is the true ‘orthodox’ doctrine on divorce and remarriage. Except for what the Bible calls fornication (an illicit sexual union such as a forced marriage against the will of one or both parties, consanguinity, the discovery of any kind of on going pre-marital sexual immorality, a living ex-spouse, a Non-Catholic spouse who works against the Church etc.) the written and oral traditions of the Faith permit no divorce or remarriage after a divorce. The Orthodox aren’t Orthodox in this matter at all.

  9. T. Shaw, what do you mean by that crack about, “they need to stop drinking their bath water”?

  10. Donald,

    Actually, we have had two Ecumenical Councils [Lyons and Florence] which did in fact work wonders in bringing about the reconciliation with whole ‘churches’ of the East-thus all our “eastern rite churches’. The Church is one, yet as long as any ‘church’ or ‘ecclesial community’ is estranged and separated we have the responsibility to pray (first) and work toward unity. One example of close association with the Orthodox is the relationship of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in America-there is a greater communion-if not perfect-now than we had fifty years ago.

    Stephen Dalton,
    With MPS I will affirm that the Orthodox do indeed hold Matrimony as a sacrament. However, in the process of all the discussions leading up to our own Synods on the Family I have done more research on the “Orthodox position” on marriage. While their teachings are based on the Fathers of the Church I found that their ‘policies’ on marriage are based on the Emperor Justinian’s laws concerning marriage [500’s]. Given the extremely close relationship of the Byzantine Emperor and the whole Eastern Church [not Orthodox at the time] his laws trumped everything. Technically they should have applied in the West as well however, two things prevented this. First, despite an occasional aberration here and there, we have always had a ‘real distinction’ between Throne and Altar in the Latin Church-much more so than in the Eastern Church. Secondly, with our own Scriptural and Patristic teachings on the Petrine Ministry [papacy], we looked to the Bishop of Rome for matters of faith and morals rather than to an Emperor, king or whatever.

    Hope this helps

  11. Blessed Mary at Fatima said Consecrated by all the Bishops of the World under the Pope. The orthodox church can claim apostolic succession and they do. Please tell Me if Blessed Mary wants Russia consecrated surely she would include Russia. It lacks intelligence and grace to think otherwise. As for the nincompoops who claim Russia was never consecrated they are foolish as ever fools can be. Anyone with a knowledge of Grace, knowledge of merits can see that due to the frailties of mankind the consecration was not perfect it has value as any consecration by even a most junior of priests would be valid. Blessed Mary also never put period of time and any bishop who consecrates Russia at any time as long as he admits to the Pope being the elder brother of the Community in the same manner as the Jewish pre messiahs did. read about Gamaliel and and seek to find out how he was and those before him the keeper of the Doctrines, and how the keeper of the keys are or were the grand viziers of mid eastern religions who opened the doors of the palace swept out the throne room, preparing the way of the King to meet and hear his subjects. As the Church teaches we must look upon the customs of the times we are studying for it to make sense.

  12. “The Orthodox Church has always taught the uniqueness of marriage; following the teaching of St Paul and of the Fathers it disapproves of second marriages and permits no more than three, even if they have all ended by death.”
    Tobias married Sara. Sara had seven husbands who were killed by a demon. “The Orthodox church permits no more than three, even if they have all ended in death”. Then the Orthodox church denies freedom to its adherents to exercise their right to marry.

  13. Stephen E Dalton wrote, “I don’t think you know all that much about Orthodoxy. I looked up several Orthodox web sites…”
    Not, perhaps, the most reliable sources. May I suggest P. Rodopoulos (Metropolitan), Lessons in Canon law, Thessalonica, 1993.
    If you don’t read Greek, you could try P. L’Huillier (Archbishop), Le divorce selon la théologie et le droit canonique de l’Eglise orthodoxe, in Messager de l’Exarchat du Patriarcat Russe en Europe occidentale, (Divorce according to theology and cannon law in the Orthodox Church in Messenger of the Exarch of the Patriarch of Russia and Western Europe) (no 65), Paris, 1969, or P. Evdokimov, Sacrement de l’amour — le mystère conjugal à la manière de la tradition orthodoxe, (Sacrament of love – the conjugal mystery according to the orthodox tradition), Paris, 1962.

    They all explain that (1) Marriage is indissoluble and (2) divorce and remarriage is sometimes permitted as an “economia,” in the sense of “deviating from the precision of a rule.” Indeed, the current Ecumenical Patriarch (Bartholomew) wrote a paper on it – The problem of oikonomia today, in Kanon, Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft fur das recht der Ostkirchen, (Yearbook of the Society for the law of the Eastern Churches) Vienna, 1987, p. 42, which attracted much interest from Western theologians and canonists.

  14. If a woman marries all of seven brothers and they all die, whose wife in heaven will she be?
    I am sorry, Michael Paterson-Seymour, the church, all churches, any church does not get to dictate how a person feels about a second legitimate spouse. If this is the excusing of the person for marrying a second time, (no left over spouses on earth) the second marriage does not and cannot be excused on the grounds that it cannot be prevented. It is true, that if there are no legitimate impediments and the person is free to marry, his or her spouse having passed away, in the same manner as a vocation, the person is at liberty to take as many serial spouses as his situation lawfully may allow. But to tell an individual that it is God’s economy that he ought to have only three marriages countermands the Holy Spirit, if God wants one to have many more.

  15. “Archbishop Irleand was nasty to Fr. Alexis Toth, who subsequently left and founded the Orthodox Church of America.”

    Well, not exactly Penguin Fan. The OCA is descended from the ROC’s mission to Alaska, which became the ROC’s North American diocese after 1867 and was granted autonomy by Patriarch Tikhon in 1924 and later autocephaly in 1970, which is when it took the OCA name. Toth, who died in 1909, was responsible for an expansion of the ROC’s North American diocese with about 100,000 disaffected Eastern Catholics.

    BTW, I love the story of Patriarch Tikhon’s comment after sewer workers in Moscow accidentally flooded the Lenin Mausoleum: “The balm accords with the relic”. Tikhon was a U.S. citizen and until his health failed was Lenin’s principal and most feared opponent.

    I too have many Eastern rite Catholic churches in my area. All Latin rite Catholics who can really should take advantage of close proximity to these churches and enjoy their liturgies once in awhile.

  16. “Except for what the Bible calls fornication (an illicit sexual union such as a forced marriage against the will of one or both parties, consanguinity, the discovery of any kind of on going pre-marital sexual immorality, a living ex-spouse, a Non-Catholic spouse who works against the Church etc.)”
    Mr. Dalton, it appears that you are confusing fornication with impediment. One is not the other. For example, under canon law a child born outside marriage as a result of fornication is illegitimate, while a child born from a marriage with an impediment is not illegitimate.

  17. The Church will never be reunited when our faith is so weak and our charity is so cold on both sides of the divide. Most of the comments above give ample evidence of this.

  18. TomD, I went through an annulment of my first marriage nearly two decades ago. I don’t wish to sound arrogant, but I was forced to do a lot of research on what Christ meant by fornication. The key to understanding what Christ meant by fornication is to understand what Moses meant by “uncleanness” in Deut. 24:1-4. By looking up the word in Strong’s Concordance, I discovered that word is also translated nakedness as well. If you go to Lev. 18:6-19 and Lev. 20:11-21, you will see how that word is used. It is basically referring to pre-marital sexual misconduct of any type, incest, sodomy, and beastility. In other words, sexual perversion. The Pharisees were abusing Moses’s law by allowing divorce for any reason. Christ told them “except for fornication” no divorce or remarriage. They then asked, why the bill of divorcement? Jesus said it was because of the hardness of heart. The one with the hardness of heart was the “fornicator”. She was going to whore around anyway, so it made no sense to allow her make the innocent party miserable, so send her on her way to do what she was doing anyway.

  19. Stephen E Dalton

    I agree that the important text here is Leviticus 18:6-17.

    Now, Verse 6 prohibits generally intercourse between a man and “any of the kindred of his flesh…” Canonists are all agreed that the 7th to 17th verses inclusive give a series of examples of the relationship more generally expressed in verse 6. Clearly, those examples are not intended as a limiting and exhaustive specification of the cases to which the prohibition of verse 6 is to apply, but as merely illustrative examples; a man and his daughter is not listed among the examples.

    The principle of interpretation always applied in the West has been that where a relationship by consanguinity is mentioned, a corresponding relationship by affinity is meant to be covered. In fact, eight of the relationships specified are cases of affinity. Again, where a relationship between a man and a woman is expressed, the corresponding relationship between a woman and a man is implied.

    So interpreted, we can see at once that the relationships are either between the direct ascendant by consanguinity or affinity and one or two degrees from him or her by descent, as in mother and son and grandfather and granddaughter; between those who are both in the first degree of descent from a common stock, as brother and sister; and between those, one of whom is descended n the first, and the other in the second degree from the common stock, as aunt and nephew

    In other words, Christ’s prohibition on divorce does not apply where the couple are related within those degrees. This would agree with St Paul’s treatment of the incestuous Corinthian in 1 Cor 5:1. He was to be delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (1 Cor. 5:2-5); to be driven out from among the believers (1 Cor. 5:7, 13). The disputed question whether he is to be identified with the offender of 2 Corinthians 2:5 and 7:12 does not affect the principle.

    The only “pre-marital sexual misconduct” that would be relevant is that creating affinity e.g. a woman has intercourse with a man and later “marries” his brother. The “wife” would be his sister, within the meaning of v 9.

  20. Anzlyne: “Maybe God wants us to recognize that the pope is not the Church.”

    And maybe too, God wants us to recognize that the people are not the church, in so far as the Church of Jesus Christ is composed of the Church triumphant, the Church militant and the Church suffering in purgatory. With Jesus Christ, Head of the Church, all souls for all time with the hierarchy of the church for all time is the church, with the guidance of the Holy spirit and obedience to God, the Father alone, as Jesus was obedient to God, His Father.
    Perhaps this is why Pope Francis dumbed down the word “triumphalism” in the church, because many of us have not got to heaven to be triumphant as of today. People, as the Body of Christ and the church, cannot be expressed except as Jesus Christ was perfectly obedient to God, His Father. Those who would take any concept and run with it are stealing a pig and running with it. Without Jesus Christ’s total submission to God, His Father, there is no church. As for people, unless united in Jesus Christ’s perfect submission to God, His Father, there is no church.

  21. Botolph: “with our own Scriptural and Patristic teachings on the Petrine Ministry [papacy], we looked to the Bishop of Rome for matters of faith and morals rather than to an Emperor, king or whatever.”
    A Sovereign, Emperor, king or whatever is endowed by the Supreme Sovereign Being with authentic authority. A Sovereign, Emperor, king or whatever must submit to perfect obedience to Jesus Christ and Christ’s obedience to God, His Father. An Emperor or Pope without obedience to God is a liar and a hypocrite, unworthy of credibility.

  22. Well, isn’t it worth a try? Dialogue and diplomacy, aren’t these how the reunification with the Uniate began? It is a goal of Christianity, unity. There is no getting around the Biblical call to it. So, we have to make an effort.

    I mean, every church we unify in the Catholic Church, and it has happened, is more of our mission complete. Besides, getting closer to them in doctrine, working together on common interests (the protection of the religious liberty of Christians and of the holy sites) is itself unifying. This unity may not be sufficient, but it is not insignificant.

  23. Mr. Dalton: OK, makes sense. You’ve convinced me of Jesus’ intent. Your post, though, does show how the modern meaning of the word differs a bit from the Gospel meaning.

  24. TomD wrote, “Your post, though, does show how the modern meaning of the word differs a bit from the Gospel meaning.”

    Should we not rather recognize that there is not necessarily a one-to-one correspondence between words in one language and another? Thus, there is no single English word that has the same meaning and the same range of uses as πορνεία, often translated as fornication; its etymology, from περάω, πέρνημι = “I sell,” is not particularly helpful, for derivation is not necessarily meaning.

    As Wittgenstein says, We should, travel with the word’s uses through “a complicated network of similarities, overlapping and criss-crossing” [Philosophical Investigations 66]

  25. For MP-S: “The only “pre-marital sexual misconduct” that would be relevant is that creating affinity e.g. a woman has intercourse with a man and later “marries” his brother. The “wife” would be his sister, within the meaning of v 9.”
    Wasn’t this reasoning, the argument that Henry VIII used to justify his divorce from Katherine of Aragon who was his brother Arthur’s widow and hence his first remarriage?

  26. CAM: A thought. It was required of the Israelites to marry the widow of one’s brother and raise up children in the brother’s name, Onan refused and was struck dead.
    The matter that the brother was dead may have released the sister-in-law condition. My grandmother married her husband’s brother when her husband passed away.
    I do know that being a Godparent prohibits that person from marrying his Godchild, a spiritual relationship. I have used the argument that all men are God’s children and brothers of Christ and therefore, Jesus Christ was not married, for all women are his sisters. However, Jesus loves us so much more and continues our salvation.
    Clay: “It is a goal of Christianity, unity.” This would be “unity” in Jesus Christ. Ecumenism outside Jesus Christ will not bring us to salvation.

  27. CAM asked, “Wasn’t this reasoning, the argument that Henry VIII used to justify his divorce from Katherine of Aragon who was his brother Arthur’s widow and hence his first remarriage?”

    But Pope Julius II had granted a dispensation for Henry’s marriage to his brother’s widow, so this raised a further question, namely, can the Holy See dispense from the Levitical degrees (or some of them)? The Reformers, for whom the prohibited degrees were a hot topic, maintained (1) that the only prohibited degrees were the Levitical degrees and (2) that they were indispensible.

    Now, in 1563, the Council of Trent solemnly defined, “If any one says, that those degrees only of consanguinity and affinity, which are set down in Leviticus, can hinder matrimony from being contracted, and dissolve it when contracted; and that the Church cannot dispense in some of those degrees, or establish that others may hinder and dissolve it; let him be anathema.” (Sess 24 c 3)

    The Council did not define which degrees were dispensable, for the Council Fathers could reach no consensus on that question. Councils are, after all, infallible not inspired and there is no guarantee they can answer every question put to them.

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