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Old 2nd April 2007, 01:33 PM
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Default Question RE Papal Infallibility and Ecumenical Reception


Question that relates again to the concept of reception.

Vatican I is often perceived in the East as the greatest obstacle to reunion. The Pope being infallible in his office "ex cathedra" seems to imply that he functions as the mouthpiece and representitive of the entire Church. Orthodox have explained papal infallibility positively as the pope speaking on behalf of the ecumenical consensus beforehand in his special divinely given charisma and office. After all, the ecumenical consensus is often unclear for quite some time (as it was for centuries with the Arian and iconoclastic heresies), and papal infallibility here serves as an efficient way of expressing the ecumenical consensus beforehand.

But Vatican I also says that the pope speaks infallibly, "independantly of the consensus of the Church." This seems problematic to the EAstern mind, because it seems to reduce the Church to the Pope, since it seems to imply that the Pope bears Tradition on his shoulders entirely without reference to the Mind of the Church corporately. It also implies to many in the East that his charisma bears no relationship to the Conciliar nature of the Church as the East understands it.

Thus, that statement gives birth in the Eastern mind to the intense fear, rational or otherwise, that the Pope now cuts himself off, post Vatican I, from the Church to stand above it as a tyrant. This is re-inforced by episodes such as at the Vatican council itself, when the Chaldean Catholic patriarch expressed reservations to the Pope about the way that he phrased infallibility, and how this would be misunderstood in the East. The pope locked him in the Vatican palace until the patriarch expressed his submission by allowing the pope to place his foot on the patriarch's neck. For the East, which also maintains apostolic sees from Peter, Paul, Andrew, Mark, Thomas, and so forth, this was a horrifying gesture that seemed to vindicate existing fears about how the Pope perceived the other apostolic sees.

I was wondering how you would, in charity, address these concerns. For the sake of Unity.
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