Tag Archives: Patriarch Bartholomewof Constantinople

Consensus & the Heckler’s Veto

One of the arguments against autocephaly the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is that it was granted without a consensus of the other national Churches. I’ll speak about consensus in a moment but first I think it’s worth pointing out that the Moscow Patriarchate (through its representative Metropolitan Hilarion of the Department of External Affairs) contends that “administratively the Orthodox Church is a confederation (using the language of civil society and a comparison with a political structure) of independent Churches which are not subordinate to each other, even if by protocol they occupy certain places.”

His Eminence goes on to say that the Churches are

…like countries in the United Nations. They are listed in a certain order, but it does not mean that one country is subordinate to another one. In the same way, the Orthodox world has never known subordination of one Church to another Church. Now the Patriarchate of Constantinople wants to create such subordination, and the newly established organization in Ukraine is an “autocephalous church” (I say it in inverted commas), designed in accordance with the desires of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. It is not a truly independent Church, because the tomos granted to it lays down many conditions on which it receives this so-called “autocephaly.”

Sticking to the Orthodox anglosphere the OCA in its response to events agrees with Moscow that the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) is illegitimate and so they will not commemorate the primate of the OCU His Beatitude Epiphaniy, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine noting “That no changes be made to the diptychs, noting that the Orthodox Church in America has not been formally requested to make such changes.”

Bracketing for the moment the ecclesiological question of whether or not the Orthodox Church is administratively one or not, there is the epistemological question of the nature of consensus. What do Orthodox Christians mean by the term?

While some (notable the Moscow Patriarchate) seem to think any decision about the autocephaly of the Church in Ukraine be one to which all the Churches agree (i.e., unanimous). Moreover, this unanimity must be reached before any action is taken.

The former at least is not the plain meaning of consensus; the latter seems impossible given the requirement of a unanimous decision. And, in both cases, this turns “consensus” into a heckler’s veto.

The Catholic scholar James Chastek writing at Just Thomism offers what I think is a helpful insight as Orthodox Christians work through our current ecclesiastical crisis. In his post Consensus and Silence, he writes that what I would call the only relative value of consensus:

In the end, scientific or academic consensus is just one more set of arguments, no more or less than Plato’s descent of regimes, Mill’s Socrates and the pig, Hume’s fork, or Euclid 3.16.

He goes on to say that the appeal to consensus conceals within itself “the breakdown in social trust that allows people to accept an argument without having to go through it all.” Sociologically he traces this wound to trust to the growing “disillusioned with authority in the ’60’s and ’70’s.” Over time, distrust–suspicion–has become an intellectual habit of the disillusioned. And so “insisting on consensus is probably just a symptom of this disillusion.”

While Chastek is concerned with the peer review process in academia, his observations about this process are equally applicable to the Church. “Consensus is largely peer review, peer review is peer pressure, and peer pressure only silences dissent when it is relatively weak.” When the community is intellectually, morally and spiritually healthy. there is no

…need to silence anyone since contrary opinions never arise. They’re never even thought. You don’t usually need to tell people that what they’re thinking is not comme il faut any more than you need to tell them that what they’re wearing is.

What I think Chastek is pointing to is this: In a healthy community there is an ability to disagree agreeably. There is no need to silence minority opinions. The eccentric knows he views are marginal but there is still room for his views in the community.

It is only when I forget that our discussions, debates, and disagreements are all in the service of articulating the truth or am insecure in my own convictions that I am tempted to impose silence on those who disagree with me.

This temptation “is exacerbated” when I or the community has become “rigidly peer-pressured” and abandons an appreciation for the positive role of “eccentrics.”

In other words, we are where we are because (some of us at least) have grown to value conformity more than charity. The schism in Ukraine has gone on for almost 30 years. By the standards of the Great Schism–now more than a 1,000 years long–this is small potatoes.

But in both cases, I see a worrying tendency to seek out reasons to avoid the hard work that reconciliation requires.

To its credit, Constantinople has been willing to do the hard work. At the Council of Crete and in bilateral discussions with Moscow, the Ecumenical Throne tried to involve other Churches in the process of reconciling the various splinter groups in Ukraine. Unfortunately, these overtures were not reciprocated by Moscow or some of the other local Churches.

The challenge we face is this. To think of the Church administratively as a confederation of Churches degrades the conciliar nature of the Church. AAnd if, as Metropolitan Hilarion contends, the Church administratively is merely a confederation of Churches in which no Church “is subordinate to another one” consensus is nothing more the heckler’s veto rather than what it should be: the shared discernment of the truth.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Message By His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew On the 85th Anniversary of the Holodomor

Beloved children in the Lord: May God’s grace and peace be with you.

As every year, we are communicating with all of you with a heavy heart from the historic and martyric Mother Church of Constantinople while prayerfully commemorating the Holodomor of the Ukrainian People, the tragic and inhumane events of the years 1932-1933, when countless human beings lost their lives through deliberate and brutal famine.  This tragedy inscribes itself among other atrocities against humanity and God’s creation committed over the twentieth century, the most violent in history thus far.

As we pray for the repose of the victims’ souls and for the healing of this painful wound in the conscience of your blessed Nation, we remind all people of goodwill that the Church does not tolerate injustice or any type of force that undermines social cohesion.  Rather, it underscores the social teaching of the Christian Gospel and promotes diakonia and philanthropy. Orthodoxy’s responsibility is to serve as a positive challenge for contemporary humankind, a God-inspired perspective of life and an expression of authentic freedom.

When remembering the past and learning from its tragedies, we ought to move ahead into the future with compassion and forgiveness.  For, it is in the Church, the mystical Body of Christ, that we are spared from sorrow and suffering, while at the same time we find strength to forgive and love all people.  Our Ecumenical Patriarchate is strong because it has a sacrificial love and acts through humility and the Cross.  His story is filled with martyrdom and sacrifice for the world, for all peoples and for all nations.  The Church of Constantinople, as the Mother Church, is the incarnation of the free love of Christ, who does not crucify but is crucified, who sacrifices His soul for His friends – for all men.  

For this reason, it is inconceivable that the Ecumenical Throne – which according to the Holy Canons is responsible for the unity and stability of Orthodoxy – would remain indifferent when an Orthodox people, such as the Ukrainian people, suffer and seek a solution to the ecclesiastical problems that have tormented them for centuries.  Therefore, we intervene by obligation – always on the basis of authentically ecclesiastical, truly universal and purely supra – national criteria – for the truth and tradition of the Church, the defense of canonical order and the identity of Orthodoxy, all for the purpose of building up the body of Christ, not for ourselves and not for demonstrating worldly strength and power.  By remaining indifferent, we would be left with no excuse before God and history.

This great responsibility of the Mother Church, the Holy and Great Church of Christ, certainly has no limits.  That is why, just as we have granted autocephaly to all local Churches, the Holy and Sacred Synod has similarly decided to grant autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which is tormented in many ways, so that she, too, may join the plentitude of Orthodoxy in unity and internal peace.  Only the First Throne of Orthodoxy, the Church of Constantinople, holds this high responsibility according to the Holy and Sacred Canons.

May God grant rest to the souls of all the victims of the Holodomor, and may He grant all of you, dear children, patience in trials, as well as love and forgiveness for one another.  May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  Amen.

At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the 24thof November, 2018

The fervent supplicant befoe God,

+BARTHOLOMEW

Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch