Orientalium Ecclesiarum 2

We begin the main body of Orientalium Ecclesiarum with a first section entitled, “The Individual Churches or Rites.”

The Holy Catholic Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, is made up of the faithful who are organically united in the Holy Spirit by the same faith, the same sacraments and the same government and who, combining together into various groups which are held together by a hierarchy, form separate Churches or Rites. Between these there exists an admirable bond of union, such that the variety within the Church in no way harms its unity; rather it manifests it, for it is the mind of the Catholic Church that each individual Church or Rite should retain its traditions whole and entire and likewise that it should adapt its way of life to the different needs of time and place.(S. Leo IX, Litt. In terra pax, an. 1053: Ut enim; Innocentius III, Synodus Lateranensis IV, an. 1215, cap. IV: . Licet Graccos; Litt. Inter quatuor, 2 aug. 1206: Postulasti postmodum; Innocentius IV, Ep. Cum de cetero, 27 aug. 1247; Ep. Sub catholicae, 6 mart. 1254, proem.; Nicolaus III, Instructio Istud est memoriale, 9 oct. 1278; Leo X, Litt. Ap. Accepimus nuper, 18 maii 1521; Paulus III, Litt. Ap. Dudum, 23 dec. 1534; Pius IV, Const. Romanus Pontifex, 16 febr. 1564, 5; Clemens VIII, Const. Magnus Dominus, 23 dec. 1595, 10; Paulus V, Const. Solet circumspeata, 10 dec. 1615, 3; Benedictus XIV, Ep. Enc. Demandatam, 24 dec. 1743, 3; Ep. Enc. Allatae sunt, 26 iun. 1755, 3, 6-19, 32; Pius VI, Litt. Enc. Catholicae communionis, 24 maii 1787; Pius IX, Litt. In suprema, 6 ian. 1848, 3; Litt. Ap. Ecclesiam Christ;, 26 nov. 1853; Const. Romani Pontificis, 6 ian. 1862; Leo XIII, Litt. Ap. Praeclara, 20 iun. 1894, n. 7; Litt. Ap. Orientalium dignitas, 30 nov. 1894, proem.; etc.)

Pardon the lengthy footnote, but note that it covers about nine centuries of references. With the predominance of the Roman Church in the West, too many Christians never give the East a particular thought. Also note the principle of unity above uniformity and some guiding principles:

  1. Variety does not harm unity.
  2. Retention of non-Roman tradition is a value.
  3. Different times and places call for flexibility of expression.
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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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6 Responses to Orientalium Ecclesiarum 2

  1. Liam says:

    Note also that such values are expressed as between churches, not within a given church. Some elide the distinction.

  2. Tony E. says:

    Clearly Jesus wanted a monolith.

  3. Jeff Pinyan says:

    I’m curious if this is glossed over because it’s in this often-overlooked document:

    The Holy Catholic Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, is made up of the faithful who are organically united in the Holy Spirit by the same faith, the same sacraments and the same government and who, combining together into various groups which are held together by a hierarchy, form separate Churches or Rites.

  4. Todd says:

    The same faith and sacraments are obvious. By the “same government,” do the council bishops mean what we share with the East in terms of bishops and understanding bishops as the successors to the apostles? Or does it mean Rome?

  5. Liam says:

    Well, some of the Eastern Church (eg the Russian Orthodox Church) do not necessarily concede we share the same faith and sacraments/mysteries. We often forget that.

  6. Jim McK says:

    I expect the passage is meant to invoke Eph 4, quoted below, so that the “the same faith, the same sacraments and the same government” echoes “one Lord, one faith, one baptism”. That would mean the government of “the Holy Catholic Church” is the One Lord. (Not three Lords but one Lord in three persons.)

    This unity is experienced through the hierarchical governments of the separately formed churches and rites. This suggests to me that the diversity within the One church would be manifested in the individual churches as well as among them.

    The primary focus in this document is the churches in communion with Rome, so the “same sacraments” are recognized. But even with the other eastern churches, what matters in Roman eyes is if the Roman bishops recognizes the same sacraments existing, and that is the viewpoint reflected here. Difficulties when that recognition is not mutual are dealt with elsewhere, most often in particular cases where basic questions have obvious answers, eg Which Russian Orthodox Church?

    Ephesians 4:1-6
    I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
    one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
    one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

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