December 12, 2005

Lack of Progress

Reading the obituary of the esteemed, recently deceased John F. Long, S.J., (Signs of the Times, 10/10) and the tribute to him in a recent address by Brian E. Daley, S.J., reported in America (Signs of the Times, 11/7), I began to wonder what the results might be of the decades of Catholic-Orthodox dialogue. Little is reported about this.

The few differences in doctrine and practice between the two halves of the church do not appear to a layman to be major obstacles. If the filioque matter is even being discussed, it seems totally irrelevant to the religious lives of ordinary people, and theologians who are concerned with it could do more useful work elsewhere. The Orthodox provisions for married clergy and a second shot at marriage seem far more sensible than Roman Catholic practices and should be adopted by Rome.

I fear the obstacle is power and authority. As Father Daley delicately puts it, For the Catholic Church, growth toward ecumenical unity must unquestionably involve the readiness to accept new forms of synodal decision-making and teaching that will be more complex, more mutual, more inclusive and less centralized than is conceivable within the classical modern model of papal primacy.

In other words, the papacy, which will not even allow a national bishops’ conference to decide the wording of a Bible translation into its national language, has to accept substantial independent decision-making by patriarchs and autocephalous churches! Whoowee! And how is the pope to be elected? The Orthodox have no College of Cardinals, a Roman invention not found in the early church.

Such details could be worked out, of course, given the necessary flexibility on all sides. But the apparent lack of any real progress after decades of work is striking and dismaying.

Tom Farrelly
Seattle, Wash.

Whole Picture

Thank God for Jim Harvey, Joseph Bukovchik, Patricia Kobielus Thompson, Msgr. George J. Adams and Paul W. Comiskey. Their letters said it so much better than I could have. I too sense a drift to the right and after many, many years as an America subscriber am seriously considering switching to The National Catholic Reporter. The letters in the Oct. 31 issue gave me hope, so I will hang in a little longer.

I was unhappy with the Oct. 10 editorial as well. Your editor took umbrage at those Democratic senators who did not vote to confirm Judge Roberts. Did what Judge Roberts said some years ago about women make no impression on him? Well, as Ms. Thompson said: Menfolk just can’t seem to see the whole picture. But I have a right to expect more of the menfolk at America.

Mary Ann P. Lee
Saco, Me.

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