Tuesday, March 31, 2020

On the Canon of St. Andrew

Does Orthodox Wiki Reflect the Standard Orthodox View?

Globally? In the English-speaking world?

The OrthodoxWiki entry on Consecration of a bishop:

The consecration of a bishop is the process during which a candidate for the episcopate receives the fullness of the grace of the priesthood through the Sacred Mystery of ordination by the laying of hands (in the Greek: χειροτονία, Cheirotonia) in succession from the Holy Apostles. The office of bishop is the highest clerical rank in the Orthodox Church. While some bishops may receive titles such as Patriarch, Metropolitan, or Archbishop, all bishops are equal and the titles are administrative ranks and marks of dignity and honor. At his consecration, a bishop receives grace not only to perform the Sacred Mysteries but also to bestow the grace of ordination on others.

Is this view the result of Western influence? Or can it be found within the Byzantine tradition itself? How far back does it go?

In the entry for "Presbyter" it is written:

The word 'presbyter' is, in the Bible, a synonym for bishop (Gr: επίσκοπος - episkopos), referring to a leader in local Church congregations. However, since at least the second century, it has been understood as distinct from bishop and synonymous with priest. Its literal meaning in Greek (Gr: πρεσβύτερος - presbyteros) is "elder." 
And later in the article:

The earliest organization of the Christian churches in Palestine was similar to that of Jewish synagogues, who were governed by a council of elders (presbyteroi). In Acts 11:30 and 15:22, we see this collegiate system of government in Jerusalem, and in Acts 14:23, the Apostle Paul ordains elders in the churches he founded. Initially, these presbyters were apparently identical with the overseers (episkopoi, i.e., bishops), as such passages as Acts 20:17 and Titus 1:5,7 indicate, and the terms were interchangeable. 

Shortly after the New Testament period, with the death of the Apostles, there was a differentiation in the usage of the synonymous terms, giving rise to the appearance of two distinct offices, bishop and presbyter. The bishop was understood mainly as the president of the council of presbyters, and so the bishop came to be distinguished both in honor and in prerogative from the presbyters, who were seen as deriving their authority by means of delegation from the bishop. The distinction between presbyter and bishop is made fairly soon after the Apostolic period, as is seen in the 2nd century writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch, who uses the terms consistently and clearly to refer to two different offices (along with deacon).

Is this the standard Orthodox understanding of the history of the presbyterate and of the New Testament on the relation between the presbyters and the episkopoi? Unfortunately no sources are given for these points in the article. Are there any historical sources that explain the separation of the two orders and the justification for the presbyterate deriving the power to exercise their office from the bishop?

A Defense That Actually Highlights the Problem

CWR: The shepherds we need—or the shepherds I want? by Fr. Charles Fox
Bishops are vital to the Church’s life and mission, they face incredibly difficult pastoral situations every day, and they deserve to be treated with justice and mercy, just like anyone else.

Just one difficulty with applying this secular approach to criticism of the bishops is that the bishops did not choose their positions of authority. They were chosen. “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you” (Jn 15:16), Our Lord told His first bishops at the Last Supper.
But isn’t it true that ambition helped propel some of our bishops down the path towards the episcopacy? In all probability, yes. But this admission does not change the more fundamental truth that the Church, in the person of the Pope, chooses priests to become bishops. And so it is unjust to think of public criticism as “part of the package” of the life they have chosen for themselves. 
Criticism will always come to every leader, but the critic, especially one who purports to be a devout Catholic, has his own moral responsibility to make sure that both the substance and the form of his criticism are appropriately just and merciful.

The problem? Latin bishops are selected by the bishop of Rome, usually with the assistance of the papal nuncio to the country in question, who solicits suggestions from bishops and others of that country. Do any of the people who are involved in this election process have sufficient personal knowledge of the candidates that if one of the candidates were accused of sexual misconduct, they could state that they believe he is innocent, even if the allegations are "credible"?  And we must also consider that transferring bishops from one see to another happens regularly in the patriarchate of Rome, and outsiders are often installed in the see of a diocese. Let us be clear, the naming of bishops by Rome is not a practice that dates back to Sts. Peter and Paul. (And of course the bishop of Rome should not be naming or even "confirming" non-Latin bishops. He should only acknowledge and perhaps congratulate non-Latin bishops upon their election and consecration/installation.)

What should be happening instead? The local Church should choosing its bishop, whether the naming of candidates be by a select few, the presbyteral synod, or with the involvement of the Christian people as well. At the very least they should be able to affirm or reject candidates based on personal familiarity with the character of the candidate? Should the election of one candidate from the many be by lot? Or by voting? These details do not matter at the moment, as we are nowhere near to restoring this ancient custom to the Latin churches. But we should be making some sort of movement to that custom where possible. If it is not possible because the scale of the local Church is too large, then that needs to be changed. If it is not possible because the people are not sufficiently catechized and cannot judge accurately the character of their presbyters and prominent laymen, then maybe the juridical status of the local Church should be abolished and replaced with a mission territory.

This is not to say that any of the other patriarchates or national churches or what have you are completely free of this problem. But is there any jurisdiction which is as centralized as the patriarchate of Rome in this regard?

Catholic Life Series - Life In The Divine Image - Dr. Reinhard Huetter

FC2019 Plenary Lecture: "Is Friendship Possible?" by Alasdair MacIntyre