Translate

Monday, January 13, 2014

They haven't invited me.


Not that this means there won't be a Great Council of the Orthodox Church in 2015.

Seriously, this apparently has some folks excited as, any day now, the current Patriarch of Istanbul Constantinople is going to whip global Orthodoxy into shape and then get +Francis on the phone, with whom he is this [holds forefinger and thumb a millimeter apart] close and Christendom will be one big happy family again.

As it turns out, the Ecumenical Patriarch is really the only one seriously discussing a pan-Orthodox council. Now that we've got the human and Divine natures of Christ worked out and the proper role of icons, there's not a lot left to talk about.

The only big issue worth flying to Istanbul over (assuming the Turks would allow it) is the Orthodox diaspora in Europe, Asia and the Americas, which Constantinople argues belong to her. I don't see the Patriarchs of Russia, Serbia, Romania, Georgia and Antioch agreeing to hand over their overseas Churches to the Greeks because for a lot of them (including the Greeks), those overseas Churches are the only thing keeping the lights on back home. They will frankly throw the EP out a window first, and conversely, I don't see +Bartholomew blindly proceeding with his own defenestration.

In sum, there is only one issue--the diaspora Churches--that is going to move anybody from their home See to a meeting with Constantinople, and you had better believe the people who engendered the very term 'byzantine' aren't going to budge until a lot of things have been worked out in advance. This should happen in, oh, say about a hundred years.

Any way, discussions about a forthcoming Great Council remind me of discussions about international law, as in very few people grasp how the rule of law involving sovereigns works. (Professor Hale does.) The Patriarchates are autocephalous, which means they govern themselves. +Bartholomew can talk about a Great Council all he wants. He can declare that the other Patriarchs are no longer in communion, but he can't make anybody march onto a plane and meet with him. He can rent the conference center, write up the agenda, and hire the caterers, but if nobody else shows up, it's not a Great Council. That's how conciliarity works.

Nations are sovereign as well. There's no higher temporal authority to make them knuckle under. There is an economy to this which the great English Catholic G.K. Chesterton recognized.
The internationalist and the imperialist are not only similar men, but even the same men. There is no country which the Imperialist may not claim to conquer in order to convert. There is no country which the Internationalist may not claim to convert in order to conquer. Whether it is called international law or imperial law, it is the very soul and essence of all lawlessness. Against all such amorphous anarchy stands that great and positive creation of Christendom, the nation, with its standards of liberty and loyalty, with its limits of reason and proportion.

States can condemn other states' autonomous decisions. They can drop bombs on each other, but there's no executive authority to 'arrest' a sovereign and execute a judgment. Sovereigns can be conquered in war, but in a juridical sense, they can't be made to do anything they don't actually agree to do. The moment they concede, they're no longer sovereign and somebody else is the actual sovereign. Obviously, sovereign status is something the State's agents take very seriously. So do Patriarchs.

The principle of sovereignty isn't limited to Christian Patriarchs and the world's States. Individuals can acquire sovereign power as well. If there's some natural or economic disaster and all the police leave and go home to protect their families, then anybody with enough firepower is a sovereign.

The idea that civil, theological and other orders are, practically speaking, just constructs we think up and defend against opposing viewpoints is really unsettling to people. They like to think this is all carved in stone somewhere and all those bad people who disagree with them will be made to toe the line some day. It's actually all very fluid and fragile, and we won't know until the great and final Judgment how it was all supposed to work out.

[I thought this was a suitable inaugural post for Alexandria.com, whom I don't know and have never met, but they don't require any money and honor my anonymity so we shall see how it goes. The real Alexandria is an Orthodox Patriarchal See of course, though it seems to be at least as concerned with being Greek as being Egyptian.]

4 comments:

Trifon Kupanoff said...

Should they change the name of the EP to Istanbul? I don't understand your insistence on this.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

I understand that the Church attaches ecclesiological significance to the Roman Empire of Late Antiquity. But the Empire and the traditional nation-states are gone and the ecclesiological model no longer reflects reality. This becomes painfully evident when for example we debate Chalcedon's Canon 28, which patently was about a specific time and place in the real world.

The Pentarchy are premised on the actual existence of the Roman Empire and the traditional nation-state. This was the real world context for much of the ecclesiology. That world no longer exists, but we maintain the ecclesiology.

I think that's in the category of "t" tradition rather than "T" Tradition, but it's above my paygrade to decide.

What should probably happen is the See of Constantinople should be declared vacant and the Patriarch move to Athens.

Antioch has vacated its See once for Damascus, and will probably have to relocate to Beirut soon. When Lebanon explodes, they'll have to relocate again. But everyone will still call him the Patriarch of Antioch (along with the four other bishops who call themselves the "Patriarch of Antioch.")

Scale said...

You've got bigger problems mate. Charlton has just declared extra ecclesiam mormonam nulla salus.

"Such people have put themselves on the wrong side, on the side of wrong - because they are hate-full; therefore, if they willfully remain on the side of hatred, then they have freely chosen to reject salvation."

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Bruce is going to be disappointed as the Mormons begin their transition to a unitarian-universalist book club.