Friday, September 7, 2018
Today is the 14th day since the publication of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’s “Testimony.” (The full text is here; it was made public on the evening of August 25.)
The situation remains fraught with danger for the Church.
One danger is a split in the Church.
The likelihood of such a split seems greater as the days pass. Why so?
Because many in Rome around the Pope seem to underestimate the revulsion of ordinary Catholics in America for what has been revealed about sexual abuse, and the cover-ups of that abuse.
And many powerful, conservative Catholics in America are exploiting this revulsion to build what seemed impossible two or three years ago — a popular movement against a popular Pope.
So Francis, with the highest approval ratings of any recent Pope, is, against all expectations, somehow managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory for his “reform agenda.”
This is happening because he has suddenly, unexpectedly, begun to appear as the opposite of a reformer.
He has begun to appear as someone who does not wish to undertake the reforms needed to protect young people, and root out corruption in the Church.
This is the paradox of these latest events.
To put it another way: there is no constituency for any proposal to go back to the “status quo ante Vigano” — the status quo of the situation Vigano denounced, a situation in which too many Church leaders did not take the abuse of children and seminarians and young people very seriously, or at least, not seriously enough.
Therefore, we are in a situation in which any proposal that does not call for a thorough “house-cleaning” in the Church, any proposal which says “let’s just wait it out until this storm passes,” will not fly.
The only path is forward, through whatever difficulties emerge, not backward to the days when abuse was covered up.
This does not mean Pope Francis should resign.
He is the Pope, and there remains a vast reservoir of support for the Successor of Peter, even now.
So Francis, even now, could lead a reform.
But the moment for him to announce such a reform is now, not tomorrow, or next year.
And such a true reform must begin — as it did in the case of the abuse allegations in Chile — with the admission that part of the problem has been with the Popes themselves, with the system of ecclesial cover-up that has not been reformed by any of the recent Popes, a system that allowed many abuses to occur.
And to go on decisively from there, to cleanse the Church of the filth which has made her a mockery to the world, a laughingstock, preventing her from bearing witness to the Gospel, which is her sole mission — leading all to Jesus Christ.
Meanwhile, in Kiev…
Meanwhile, the situation in Kiev is rapidly spinning toward a dramatic split of a different sort.
What seems now in the cards is a possible schism within Orthodoxy, between Moscow and Constantinople.
Because Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople today took a decision that seems likely to lead directly toward support for an autocephalous Orthodox Church centered in Kiev, Ukraine.
And because, in response, the Kiev Metropolitan, Onufry — who is under the Patriarchate of Moscow, Russia — immediately issued a statement condemning the decision, saying it contradicts a rule agreed upon at the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople [held in 381 A.D.] (meaning that the decision, in Moscow’s view, is against ancient Church doctrine), and adding: “Responsibility for the possible negative consequences of this act will lie on the Constantinople Patriarchate.”
That seems like both a prediction and a threat.
This is tragic, of course, and the consequences could be very sad indeed, and yet any other outcome now seems remote.
It is especially tragic because the hopes of Ukrainians to have a viable, vibrant, independent, free nation are, of course, completely legitimate.
The tragedy lies in the fact that some way could not be found — and up until now has not been found — to keep all Christian believers in that region united.
Better would have been to find a way to preserve and deepen Christian unity in a time when (as always) divisions in the Church are a danger to her mission and witness.
Now, with Moscow’s condemnation via Kiev of Bartholomew’s decision in such strong language, the future seems darker for Christians everywhere.
Here below is a report on the situation by my friend Peter Anderson, an American Catholic lawyer who lives in Seattle, Washington, and who has followed Catholic-Orthodox relations with great attention and balance for many years.
Bartholomew and Kiev
by Peter Anderson
Today the Ecumenical Patriarchate posted on its Facebook page (link) the following important announcement:
Within the framework of the preparations for the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has appointed as its Exarchs in Kiev His Excellency Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon from the United States, and His Grace Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton from Canada, both of whom are serving the Ukrainian Orthodox faithful in their respective countries under the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the 7th of September, 2018
From the Chief Secretariat of the Holy and Sacred Synod
What will these exarchs do in Kyiv?
One possibility is that they will seek to arrange an All-Ukrainian Council consisting of the three Orthodox Churches in Ukraine – UOC-MP, UOC-KP, and UOAC.
The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA (Ecumenical Patriarchate) Metropolitan Anthony (Scharba) told Voice of America last month: “Most likely, an All-Ukrainian Council will be gathered from representatives of all churches in Ukraine. And at this Council there will be elected a patriarch. This is one of the options for development. Then Constantinople will have to recognize this leader of the church and the tomos will be given to him.” (link)
Later today, the DECR of the UOC-MP issued a strong statement condemning this action by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. (link)
The statement provides:
With the blessing of His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Onufry, the Department of External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is authorized to declare that the appointment of the exarchs is a gross violation of the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This decision of the Constantinople Patriarchate contradicts the 2nd rule of the Second Ecumenical Council (Constantinople): “Without being invited, let bishops not go beyond their borders .”
The appointment of exarchs in Kyiv took place without the knowledge of His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine, Onufry, as the only canonical bishop of Kyiv. Responsibility for the possible negative consequences of this act will lie on the Constantinople Patriarchate.
Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Department for Church, Society and Media Relations for the Moscow Patriarchate, has issued a statement on social media this evening. (link)
The appointment by the Patriarch of Constantinople of his episcopal representatives in Ukraine, without agreement with the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine, is nothing but an unprecedentedly gross incursion into the Moscow Patriarchate’s canonical territory. These actions cannot be left unanswered.
The Greek website Romfea.gr has now posted a photocopy of the complete text of the August 13 letter from Serbian Patriarch Irinej to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. (link)
Romfea.gr has also reported that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his opening address to the Synaxis stated that any solution to the status of the FYROM Orthodox Church would not include the use of the word “Macedonia” or any of its forms in the name of the Church. (link)
On September 2 and 3, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Russian Federation, was in Kazan for the 10th anniversary of the Catholic church there.
While he was there, he gave an interview to Tatar-inform. (link) It included the following statement by the Archbishop:
“After the meeting in Havana, there were many telephone conversations between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill. And above all, we are working to ensure that the Catholic people and the Orthodox people acquire an increasingly mutual understanding and mutual cooperation.”
—Peter Anderson, Seattle USA