There has been much talk of unity in church circles. Besides the recent Episcopal Assembly in New York a possible unification between the Western and Eastern churches has been in the works for some time now. But more than this, we speak of unity at every liturgy when we pray “…for the good estate of the holy churches of God, and for the union of all men…”. What is it then that disrupts this unity? According to Mr. Dimitrios Tselengidis it is “egoism, vainglory and pride.” Furthermore he states that it is these very things which are the driving force behind the Papal primacy. Not only is it behind the Papal primacy but as he states:
“Multiform egoism is the primary cause of any heterodox teaching, according to the testimony of Holy Scripture (see 1 Tim. 6:3-6)….This same primary cause also tore Lucifer and his like-minded angels away from the primordial Church of the Triune God with His holy angels, just as it did with the first created couple….
Christ Himself, during His historic presence on earth, explicitly spurned every vainglorious desire for superiority among the Apostles (see Matt. 20: 20-28 and 23: 8-11; Mark 10: 35-45), saying to two of His chosen disciples: “Ye know not what ye ask” (Matt. 20:22). Still, it is particularly important that the Apostles, after receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and from then on having It in them experientially “in all judgement” and active to the greatest degree, asserted no primacy, nor administrative authority or service, as is attested to in the Acts of the Apostles. Thus, we see for example that in the Apostolic Council the preeminent Apostle Peter did not preside, but James the brother of our Lord. And the Apostle Peter’s position did not prevail, but that of the Apostle Paul (see Acts 15). There, for the first time it was proven in a real way that no institutional figure is infallible, but the whole Church, when it expresses itself institutionally through an Ecumenical Council.”
You know not what ye ask should perhaps be our own reaction to talks and rumors of unity between the two churches. I stumbled upon this talk via the Ad Orientem blog (see here for comments; here for the full talk) given by Mr. Tselengedis entitled The Function of the Unity of the Church and the Fallacious Theological Presuppositions of Papal Primacy. He makes the argument that due to Catholic theology, namely the Filioque and Papal primacy, there “cannot be – neither actual nor formal – union with them.” However –
“…the strange thing (dogmatically and ecclesiologically) is that the Statement of Ravenna, consistent with the previous Joint Statements of Munich, Bari, Valaam and Balamand, refers to a common apostolic faith, the common mysteries (sacraments) and the ecclesiastical character of the heterodox. Thus the false and blasphemous impression is given that with the joint Statement of Ravenna Christ is deceived, Who assured us that branches cut from the vine cannot bear fruit….”
Papal primacy and the Filioque, which the author points out are “dogmatic deviations [which] go together historically” ultimately hinder any idea of true unity. If, in the end, unity is achieved it will only be so in appearance, while in reality it will prove to be nothing but an “imperfect union”.
It would have to be an imperfect union since the papal primacy will not be erased from Catholic teaching that easy since it’s a very long standing phenomena found already in the 4th century, says Tselengedis. He continues:
“Already in the Western Council of 371 it is supported that councils without the consent of the Pope are invalid. In the East, St. Basil the Great mentions the “arrogant papal brow,” while the records of the Ecumenical Councils inform us about the papal claims the papist representatives conveyed until the 8th Ecumenical Council (879/880) under Patriarch Photius. It is internationally confirmed by history that the Orthodox East never recognized the primacy of the bishop of Rome in administrative jurisdiction and authority, neither in theory nor in practice, but only in “position of honor”. This means that he was first among equals…. Finally, the Orthodox East’s refusal to submit to the claims of the West concerning a primacy of authority over the whole Church became the reason the papists broke away from the Church in 1054.”
With talks of unity coming along I would image that the question remains, Are we finally ready to submit?