Here goes. As you may know, I am an Orthodox priest, and my question is about how to understand – from a Catholic perspective – the nature of the distinction between Orthodox and Catholic positions on Papal authority and universal jurisdiction. I am generally pro-Catholic, and I find I hear a lot of bad info coming from Orthodox who misunderstand the nature of Catholic claims, and I was wondering if you might give me some good information (corrective of typical Orthodox misunderstandings) so that I can be more securely informed. Any help is most appreciated!
To the first question – This is a hot topic, and one most difficult to answer. Reasons for them are rooted in the variegated perspectives on primacy that are cooking within Orthodoxy today. In the last 30 years, the Orthodox have discovered a great deal of pro-Primacy traditions in even the post-Schism Byzantine theologians of the 13th/14th centuries. Prior to that, a tendency towards a monolithic rejection of authoritative primacy, except for the honorific ordering of Patriarchs (see the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs to Pope Pius IX, 1848). Since the 1970s, however, work has been done by the scholarship of those scholars eventually associated (in concept) with Fr John Meyendorff, and some significant advances have been made by the Ecumenical Dialogue, especially under MetrPol of Pergamon, John Zizoulas and MetrPol Kallistos Ware. The latest advance was made at Chieti , Italy (following Ravenna) where both Orthodox and Catholic delegates met and were able to find some points of further agreement, though the Catholic delegation made no intention to overturn the Vatican I dogma, since it was not in their competency to do so anyhow. There remains a varied understanding of primacy in Orthodoxy, as is proven by the opposing camps surrounding the recent “Pan”-Orthodox synod in Crete. Anyhow, the issue of primacy boils down to this simple fact. When Christ created the Church in the holy Apostles, did he create that Church with an internal position of distinctive and discriminate primacy, and was it assigned to a single Apostle in contradistinction to the others; and more particularly, was this St. Peter? Further, is this granted primacy a matter based on moral performance? Is it based off character, knowledge, beauty, etc,etc? Or is it a matter of *office*, irrespective of the accidental features of the person. (One might find a suitable analogy in saying that the United States Presidency is an office, not a person, though its office is filled by persons ). Further, was this position an honorific influence for the Apostolic college, or was it rather a position of authority, able to coerce submission in the rare occasion of fragmentation and dispute. Further, is this office something which dies with Peter, or does it outlive him into the post-Apostolic church which expanded and continued to expand; if so, does its continual existence have an nontransferable address, or is it trans-locative (able to go from here to there). Does the office get succeeded to by a purely lineal succession, or it is broad enough to encompass plurality. (i.e. all bishops are successors of Peter). And lastly, were there any promises, via Christ, testified by the Apostles and/or Church fathers, which made it impossible for this office , as it is internal to the Church’s hierarchical constitution, to be destroyed. I think that depending on how you answer these questions, and based on where you get your answers, will determine whether you fall, intellectually, in the camp of Orthodoxy/Anglicanism or the world Catholicism. I say Anglican because there is a very similar acceptance of a sort of equal episcopalianism in both ecclesiologies, at base.