"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Monday, July 05, 2010

Orthodox Constructions of the West

First, apologies to readers and friends. Late last week I traveled to Annapolis to attend my brother's wedding. He even asked me to do the blessing at the reception on a rented yacht. Such an opportunity to feel useful was too good to pass up; and as the whole affair turned into a four-day family reunion, I barely even got the chance to look at the Internet. But today I've noticed something I've been meaning to comment on anyhow.

Just before I left New York for the wedding, a conference called “Orthodox Constructions of the West” took place at Fordham University (June 28-30). Although that is less than two miles from where I'm living at the moment, I was unable to attend: when one doesn't have a job, even registration fees become problematic! But several of my friends did, including Drs. William Tighe and Peter Gilbert, did. The only report I've seen on the conference so far is at the blog Eirenikon, where it's possible to discuss Catholic-Orthodox ecumenism without the combox descending into polemical recriminations. The Eirenikon post is the first of several announced installments, and consists mostly of notes by "good friend of the blog and frequent commenter, Michaël de Verteuil," a Canadian civil servant who's better informed on the general topic than most people and occasionally comments here too. He wrote mostly on the opening address by Fr. Robert Taft, SJ, whom he correctly says has "earned the right to say whatever he wants" at such an occasion. Please read the post and the ensuing combox.

I have just a few comments of my own. Of Robert Taft, I'm a big fan. He's almost always right. But as my friend Diane Kamer implies in the combox, realism, objectivity, and charity must prevail on both sides if substantive progress is to be made. On the Catholic side, the impetus for those qualifies definitely exists, because Rome is committed to attaining the reunion for which they are necessary. As I see it, though, the same cannot be said for the Orthodox. Some, especially among theologians and hierarchs, do have those qualities and do see the need to work tirelessly toward reunion. But they are not the majority. And even if the irenic minority prevailed at the hoity-toity level, there can be no reunion on the ground without a change of heart among Orthodox who are...well, on the ground.

As new reports on the conference come in, I'll have more to post.
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