Orientalium Ecclesiarum (Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches) truly deserves more attention, as it remains vital to the self-understanding of the Catholic Church and for the prospect of Christian ecumenism in general.
Eastern Catholics are non-Latin Rite Christians who, at some point in the last thousand years, entered into communion with Bishop of Rome—though technically, some like the Italo-Albanian and Maronite churches, may have never left that communion. These Christians of the East are many, part of several churches, in communion with the Roman church. It is often forgotten that the Catholic Church, founded on the See of Peter, is a communion of twenty-two churches.
These Eastern-rite churches are significant to any real ecclesiology because their Catholic reality—their theological tradition, liturgy, spirituality, discipline, and customs—does not derive from Western influence. As a matter of fact, their Catholicism has its own apostolic foundations as old as, or even older than, those of Rome itself. Therefore, the way the Roman church understands its relationship to Eastern churches and the way in which it lives out that understanding is a clear marker to the shape a reunified Church will take in the future. Continue reading
The perpetual virginity of Mary has always been reconciled with biblical references to Jesus’ brethren by a proper understanding of the meaning of the term “brethren.” The predominant view in Latin Christianity is the “cousins theory” mentioned by Eusebius of Caesarea as a belief of some Christians, but more widely supported by St. Jerome in De Viris Illustribus in the 4th century, as he sought to defend the doctrine of Mary as Ever-Virgin. This biblical interpretation found favor with the Pope at the time and became widely promulgated, eventually becoming the non-official, but majority view of the Roman church.
With great respect and love of St. Jerome, a celebrated saint and Father of the Church, dare I say, I would like to boldly make a theological argument against his position and that of the majority of Catholics and delineate a just as valid, but arguably more reasonable theological opinion.
The Ordination of Women, Pt. II
Just recently, I came across a well-written entitled Catholic Women Deacons seeking to make a case for the restoration of the female diaconate. The author, a professor of Religious Studies, makes her case by drawing largely upon the historical evidence of deaconesses in the early Church and during the Patristic era.
The presence of a female diaconate in the church is a matter of historical fact. While it is clear that the role of deaconesses in previous times differs drastically from the role of deacons today, the question remains about the nature and status of their position—whether it was an ordained ministry or a celebrated and respected non-ordained position in Christian communities.
From my knowledge of church history, sacramental theology, and ecclesiology, particularly as it relates to the Latin and Greek traditions of the Church, the author is inquiring within the boundaries of Christian orthodoxy. The position, in favor of a female diaconate, as far as I know, is legitimately an orthodox position; this does not mean, Catholics of good faith, cannot contradict this position. Admittedly, I do not fully embrace her view.
The Orthodox Way is one of the most referenced books in Orthodox Christianity. Despite Bishop Kallistos Ware’s best case, I remain strongly Roman Catholic. In the book, Ware describes the theological doctrines, worship, and life of Orthodox Christians. In the Introduction, Ware emphatically states that Christianity is more than a theory explaining the mystery of the universe, but recalling an ancient name for Christianity, he labels it as “the way” to Truth. On that issue, I don’t disagree with him. But, I do think a close examination of his argument shows that though he is a renowned scholar, he fails to make a case for The Orthodox Church and its doctrines. In comparison to figures such as St. Thomas Aquinas, known infamously for taking on counter-arguments head on, Ware lacks such boldness. He quotes—to an inordinate degree—the Greek Fathers of the Church and theologians of the Orthodox tradition. Rarely is there any mention of early Christians devoted to the traditions and theology of Western Christianity. I think the fact that he doesn’t, at first glance, isn’t surprising at all. Supposedly, the West is in heresy. But then again, the fact that he doesn’t, is very surprising.
Ware cites from seventy-five sources that he refers to as “Orthodox.” Of the group, only three sources—St. Augustine, St. Anthony of Egypt, and St. Leo the Great—are of the Western Christian tradition. He also cites from thirteen additional sources that he refers to as “Non-Orthodox,” implying that the writers are not Orthodox Christians or any of the early Church Fathers. The typical use of sources of this sort is to validate his own convictions or to condemn a specific view, e.g. Augustine’s view of the fall of man.