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Friday, October 31, 2003

I've been thinking about composing a "Devil's Dictionary" for Catholics.

Using such anxiety-inducing words as "liturgy," "participation," "music ministry," and the like.

Another one that should send shudders of horror up your back is "ecumenism."

"Ecumenism, ek-you'-men-izm. Noun. A process by which Catholic functionaries hold lengthy discussions with "dialogue partners" who are non-Catholic Christians or members of other religions, and reach agreements by which the Catholic side agrees to concede important doctrines in return for promises by the dialogue partners to (1) accept the concession, and (2) be good winners."

Scroll down to the "Recommendations" section for the by-now-obligatory Compi├Ęgne rail car moment:

Aware of its limitations, our Consultation nonetheless makes the following theological and practical recommen­dations to the members and the bishops of our own Churches:
* * *
that the Catholic Church, as a consequence of the normative and irrevocable dogmatic value of the Creed of 381, use the original Greek text alone in making translations of that Creed for catechetical and liturgical use.

In return, the Orthodox agree not to call us names. Well, that's fair.

I'd love to buy a new house from the Catholic "dialogue partners." My mortgage would be so much more manageable.

None of this is a shriek at the Orthodox. Obviously, there's not a thing wrong with the Creed of 381. Nor, generally (but see lex orandi, lex credendi) do I object to the liturgical application. After all, I'm a confirmed Byzantophile, and the Eastern Catholics do not use the filioque in the Divine Liturgy. Still, there was a reason it appeared in the Western liturgy--not that such was particularly important in light of the greater goal of facilitated surrender, apparently.

Moreover, the Orthodox complaints about how the filioque was added have a great deal of force behind them.

But removing it from creeds used to teach Catholicism? Which leaves what, precisely?
Printing it on holy cards? Private devotions, once a month if nobody's listening? Otherwise, scrub it from existence.

An interesting argument in favor of removal is that it doesn't prevent the filioque from being taught as part of the faith, in the same way that the immaculate conception of Mary is taught even though that's not in the Creed. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work. First, it underestimates the progressive hold on catechesis, which will use this to not only drop any teaching of the filioque ("Yay--one less thing to teach. Well, if you were teaching it in the first place...."), but also use it as some kind of proof text for reversal of dogmatic determinations.

"See--the church admits it's wrong. Next stop--priestesses! And condoms for everyone--especially the priestesses!"

Second, it would require flying in the face of two ecumenical councils--Florence and Lyons II. This talk about "demoting" II Lyons is...interesting, I suppose. But it doesn't get past Florence, which did offer the carefully-reached compromise of "through the Son" instead.

Of course, if this had half a chance of leading to reunification in the first place, it would be at least worth a look. But we aren't remotely close. It isn't the filioque that's repelling the East--it's the unrestrained goofiness rampaging through the Western Church. Starting with the liturgy, which the Orthodox commendably haven't screwed with. If I were Orthodox, I'd be a lot more worried about the reign of stupidity than the Latins holding fast to the filioque. After all, if reunification were miraculously achieved tomorrow, you'd have the Archbishop Emeritus of Milwaukee knocking on your Church doors Monday, with the Albany Iconoclast in tow, both brimming with "suggestions" for "aggiornamento" and "celebration of the community." And it wouldn't stop there, either.

Nope, this is not a signpost on the path to reunification. This is simply a further "Thank you sir--may I have another?" moment in Catholic religious dialogue. As usually seems to be the case with such things.

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