Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Kasper on Ravenna: Authority + Synodality = Unity

Last fall's East-West dialogue at Ravenna was a watershed event in Catholic-Orthodox relations, according to the Vatican's top ecumenist.

But while the Constantinople-Moscow-Athens side opened itself to a discussion on authority, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity Cardinal Walter Kasper noted that the Roman end would need to do the same on the question of "synodality" -- or, as it's better known in Catholic circles, "collegiality":
"We started the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches as a whole in 1980. The first phase of the dialogue between the 1980s and 90s sought to reaffirm what we have in common: the Eucharist and the other sacraments, episcopacy and priesthood," Cardinal Kasper explained. "Now, we are discussing the canonical and theological consequences; for the first time, we approach the questions: What is the Church? Where is the Church? What are the structures of the Church?

"We came to the concept that the Church is realized on three levels: the local level, that is, the diocese with the bishop; the regional level, that is, the metropolitan or patriarchate; and the universal level. And on every level we have a tension between authority -- bishop, patriarch, and the ‘protos,' Greek for primate, that is, ‘the first of the bishops' -- and the principle of synodality, synodal structures."

Cardinal Kasper explained that at each level, there is a tension between authority and synodality, "which is essential to the nature of the Church -- "ecclesiologically constitutive" -- and that is already an important point on which to have agreement."

But the real breakthrough, he said, was that "the Orthodox agreed to speak about the universal level -- because before there were some who denied that there could even be institutional structures on the universal level. The second point is that we agreed that at the universal level there is a primate. It was clear that there is only one candidate for this post, that is the Bishop of Rome, because according to the old order -- ‘taxis' in Greek -- of the Church of the first millennium the see of Rome is the first among them.

"Many problems remain to be resolved, but we have laid a foundation upon which we can build."

Cardinal Kasper clarified that the foundation reached is a challenge also for the Catholic Church.

"Whereas the Orthodox must clarify more deeply the question of ‘primacy, 'protos,' on the universal level, we Catholics have to reflect more clearly on the problem of synodality and conciliarity, especially on the universal level," he said.

The prelate continued: "The Ravenna document is only a first step and a basic statement. It quotes the Letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Romans -- around 100 A.D. -- stating that the community of Rome presides in love. Other early statements concur. When in the first millennium local churches were in difficulty or in distress, they often appealed to Rome. Rome was an instance of appeal, and had therefore already in the first millennium an important role to play.

"The Ravenna document mentions this, but when we in Ravenna spoke in detail about it, it became obvious that there are often different interpretations of the same facts.

"These differences existed partly already in the first millennium. For instance, the doctrine of primacy was much more developed in the West than in the East. Therefore, it is necessary to study the first millennium in detail, in order to come to a common understanding of the Fathers, both the Western and the Eastern ones. I hope we will find a common view of the first millennium."

The pontifical council president clarified that a common view does not mean "a totally unified view."

"There can still be a difference in understanding," he affirmed. "For we have to distinguish between differences that are complementary and those that are contradictory.

Complementarity existed already in the first millennium. So we have to look if we can transform our contradictions into new, fruitful complementary positions."

Cardinal Kasper said the atmosphere in Ravenna was "so positive" that he is hoping to reach such a point of agreement with the Orthodox.

"We will not arrive at uniformity, that is not the goal, but we can come to a common view, a common basic understanding; and within this common basic understanding there can be different accents and different emphases. This does not necessarily prevent Church unity. But we must overcome the contradictions of the first millennium."

The president of the pontifical council clarified that a consensus on the first millennium is not enough.

"When we have finalized the discussion about the first millennium, then we have to go to the second millennium," he said.
...and so it goes.

(SVILUPPO: Not so fast, says the Moscow Patriarchate....)

Speaking of synodal structures in the Western church, the newly-elected chair of the German bishops, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, has already set off rumblings with comments made in his first interview since taking the post:
[Zollitch's] peers have frowned at his suggestion that clerical celibacy is not "theologically necessary."

In an interview with German newsmagazine Der Spiegel... Zollitsch said that celibacy and the unmarried lives of priests were a "gift," but not essential.

Furthermore, he said it would be a "revolution" if the celibacy tradition within the Catholic Church were dissolved.

This week's publication of the interview prompted a swift response from Regensburg's bishop, Gerhard-Ludwig Müller.

"All of the specifics of being a priest and the corresponding rules of celibacy could not be expanded upon, as a theological context would require, in a quick interview," he said in a press release.

"The Second Vatican Council made clear in Article 16 -- "Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests" -- what the decisive requirements are," Müller added. "That is and will remain the policy of the Catholic Church."...

Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung daily pointed out in its Tuesday edition that such a refutation of Zollitsch's stance reflects the displeasure it caused among the more conservative bishops in the German Bishops' Conference, an assembly of the bishops and archbishops of all the German dioceses.

Yet the majority of bishops within the conference voted for Zollitsch last week as the new head of the German Catholic Church.

The archbishop of Freiburg is not only known for his more liberal views on celibacy, he has also professed his support for day-care nurseries for children (as opposed to the more traditional view that mothers should stay at home).

He has also said that if the German government can draw up legal guidelines for gay and lesbian relationships and marriages, he can do the same -- a view strongly opposed by Pope Benedict XVI.