Why Aid to the Church in Need supports the Russian Orthodox Church

 Cardinal Pole has come out all guns blazing against what he sees as a terrible scandal: the Catholic charitable organisation “Aid to the Church in Need/Kirche in Not” financially supports the theological resourcing of the Russian Orthodox Church.

He writes on his blog:

I seem to recall a recent controversy over funds from a Canadian Catholic charity going towards a Latin American organisation which supported abortion, which would and should have generated outrage. But how much more outraged should we be at Church sponsorship (by an “international Catholic charity dependent on the Holy See”, no less) of schism—abortion kills the body, but schism kills the soul.

Comparing the support of the Aid to the Church in need for the rebuilding of the ecclesial life of the Russian Orthodox Church to funding an organisation that supports abortion is quite beyond the pale.

I applaud the work that Kirche in Not does, and I support them financially. They are doing good work with the full support of the Catholic Church.

We need to step back and understand what is happening here.

You all know the facts:

1. The Russian Orthodox Church is the largest non-Roman Christian communion in the world.

2. The ROC is a true Church in the proper sense, despite its lack of communion with the Catholic Church.

These two facts alone mean that if we are serious about the unity of the Church, we must be at least as serious about the ROC as we are about the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople. St Paul exhorts us (Gal 6:10) “as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” According to Catholic ecclesiology, the Russian Orthodox belong to “the household of faith”. They are not only true Christians, but they are a true Church even and especially “in the proper sense” despite the lack of full communion with us. They have true bishops, true priests, and true sacraments. They are arguably more truly a “Church” than (for eg.) the Society of St Pius X is – and look how we are bending over backward in charity to bring them back into the fold with us!

Now add a few more facts:

3. The ROC has recently emerged from the most turbulent period in its history, in which the Communists almost succeeded in eradicating not only parish life, but the life and spiritual tradition of the monasteries as well. (I spoke to Bishop Hilarion about this once – they had to rebuild their monastic tradition by consulting BOOKS because there were no monks left to speak of who could pass on their living tradition!)

4. The ROC is desparately in need of theological resources to enable it to carry out the mission of the Gospel in Russia. Christian Charity (Christian love, not “charity” in the secular sense) demands that we give the Russian Orthodox aid in their greatest need.

There has been a period of acrimonious relationship between the Vatican and Moscow. There are signs of this relationship entering a more healthy phase – and part of this improvement in relations will be the demonstration of our good faith that we are not in competition with them, but that we share with them the burden of the promotion of the Gospel and ecclesial life in Russia.

So the Russians may be “schismatics”, as Cardinal Pole calls them (although more accurately, they were never in communion with us to enter into schism with us), but they are – more importantly in the eyes of God – our brothers and sisters in the faith, and by showing love to the members of “the household of God”, we work towards the restoration of that communion which our Lord prayed would exist between all his disciples.

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “Why Aid to the Church in Need supports the Russian Orthodox Church

  1. An Liaig

    The situation with the ROC is interesting. As you pointed out, there has never been a formal schism between Moscow and Rome. Also, during the communist era there was, out of necessity, limited intercommunion (both ways) while each church (Rome and Moscow) will use the “sister church” language which is rich in implications of unity. They are, of course, seperated from us in practicle terms by not recognizing the petrine office, or rather the effective functioning of that office. I pray and hope that I will live to see unity established – although the Spirit had better hurry up, I’m gettin on!

  2. “Cardinal Pole has come out all guns blazing against what he sees as a terrible scandal”

    It is a scandal, and a terrible one, in the true and proper sense of the word: a sin (financing schism and error) which induces others to sin (namely, the sins of indifferentism and false ecumenism—as Msgr. Lefebvre said, there is ecumenism and there is ecumenism!).

    ““Aid to the Church in Need/Kirche in Not” financially supports the theological resourcing of the Russian Orthodox Church.”

    Given that you acknowledge this at the outset, there is really no need for me to attempt to refute whatever arguments you might advance, because this situation is then a straightforward example of doing evil in order that good may come of it. One can co-operate licitly in evil if and only if all three of the following conditions are satisfied: the co-operation must be

    1. Purely material (not formal)—yet this is deliberate, knowing, direct funding for Russian-schismatic theological education.
    2. Remote—yet this is direct funding for the formation of schismatics!
    3. Motivated by a grievous proportionate cause

    “Comparing the support of the Aid to the Church in need for the rebuilding of the ecclesial life of the Russian Orthodox Church to funding an organisation that supports abortion is quite beyond the pale.”

    Abortion kills the body, schism kills the soul—presumably you don’t dispute that schismatic tendencies are a grave threat to one’s salvation, and you have failed to refute the analogy.

    ““as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.””

    Hang on a minute: if you’re invoking St. Paul’s reference to helping those “of the household of faith” (to which the Russian schismatics certainly do not belong, but I’ll get to that in a minute) to support funding them to remain in their sins—which you regard as ‘doing good’—then, logically, that would mean that we can also “do good” to, say, Muslims by funding them to remain in their sins by funding Islamic theological education. Either way, it isn’t ‘doing good’, it’s doing evil in order that good may come of it (and what good has come of it anyway?!).

    “According to Catholic ecclesiology, the Russian Orthodox belong to “the household of faith”.”

    A ‘true and proper’ branch cut off from the vine is still a branch cut off from the vine, and I fear for their salvation:

    “we declare, say, define, and proclaim to every human creature that they by necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff.”
    [Boniface VIII, Bull Unam Sanctum,
    http://www.catecheticsonline.com/SourcesofDogma5.php%5D

    “They are arguably more truly a “Church” than (for eg.) the Society of St Pius X is – and look how we are bending over backward in charity to bring them back into the fold with us!”

    Complete red herring—the S.S.P.X. does not purport to be a particular Church and has usurped no-one’s ordinary jurisdiction. (And I don’t call the snail’s-pace progress of mere doctrinal discussions “bending over backwards”—if the Holy See starts funding the S.S.P.X. seminaries then you might have a point!) Furthermore, Rome herself regards the S.S.P.X. situation as an internal problem, so your comparison is completely baseless.

    “4. The ROC is desparately in need of theological resources to enable it to carry out the mission of the Gospel in Russia.”

    Give them the Roman Catechism and the Canons and Decrees of the Councils of Trent and Vatican I then!

    “Christian Charity (Christian love, not “charity” in the secular sense) demands that we give the Russian Orthodox aid in their greatest need.”

    Their greatest need is the salvation of their souls, and entrenching them in schism and error does not serve this. Perhaps you will retort that even the Protestant sects are ‘means of salvation’, but that would be to lie by omission, since, although they might in some circumstances and in a remote sense conduce towards salvation (because they provide an introduction to Christ, Scriptures, &c. for those who would otherwise have been completely ignorant), they might well also, in other circumstances, serve only to mire people all the more deeply in sin than if those people had gone straight from no knowledge of Christ at all to being introduced to Catholicism.

    “…we are not in competition with them”

    Astonishing. Are we Catholics in competition with anyone, then?

    “although more accurately, they were never in communion with us …”

    And still aren’t. What more do I need to say?

    “our brothers and sisters in the faith”

    Whose faith? Not the divine and Catholic Faith. If I had someone who was literally a member of my domestic household, and that person was Russian-schismatic, I would never dream of giving him money for schismatic and erroneous theological resources; I would sensitively and politely try to convince him of his errors and to convert him to the Catholic religion. And needless to say, this analogy holds a fortiori at the level of the Church, because at least how I conduct myself in the privacy of my home does not have the potential to scandalise others.

  3. P.S. I’ll be back on Monday.

    Interested readers might also like to see the discussion thread at angelqueen.org/forum where I have also posted my case against A.C.N.’s Russian-schismatic sponsorship and also a link to your own post, Mr. Schütz; the comment by Amemus Athanasium of Fri Sep 11, 2009 4:22 am is particularly interesting:

    http://angelqueen.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=27864

  4. Well, I can’t say much more about this.

    It’s up to you, folks. You have the evidence from both sides. You be the judge between my position and that of His Eminence.

  5. “It’s up to you, folks.”

    Yes, speak up please, readers. What is going on here is formal co-operation in evil, namely, in the perpetuation of a schism–formal rather than just material because money is going to Russian-schismatic theological education, and that is precisely whither defenders of this strategy want money to go. But whatever good consequences one might hope to obtain thereby, the end does not justify the means–we are not consequentialists.

    This scandal is indefensible.

  6. Salvatore

    Whilst I cannot help but think His Eminence’s rhetoric is a little unfortunate*, I fear his argument is sound. The scandal is particularly acute IMO because there already is a Russian Catholic Church which could be supported instead.

    This is not to say that all financial aid to the Moscow Patriarchate is wrong; merely that it ought to be more careful targeted towards ‘non-theological’ projects.

    * I know it echoes the way that many Orthodox talk about us, but surely we should try & do better?

    • Salvatore, here is something to take into consideration:

      1) The Russian Orthodox Churches are true local churches

      2) Like many of the ancient churches of the East, the Russian Churches have never been in communion with the Church of Rome

      3) Their bishops thus have true claim to be true bishops of true Churches in the dioceses in the territories of Russia

      4) The Russian Orthodox Churches are thus the true native Churches of Russia.

      5) At no stage did the Russian Orthodox Church break communion with Rome. The ROC was never, from its institution, in communion with Rome in the first place.

      6) The Catholic Churches in Russia are the real “interlopers”, and they are aware of their status as newcomers. Though having the designation of “dioceses”, they have expressed the conviction that they are not in competition with the ancient Church of Russia, such that they are seeking to supplant the Russian Orthodox Church or convert Russian Orthodox Christians. Rather they exist for the pastoral care of Catholics in Russia and for the work of evangelisation of the unchurched (the latter ideally undertaken in cooperation with and not in competition with the Orthodox Churches).

      7) The Church of Rome’s goal in regards to the Churches of Russia is to foster such good will between Russians and Catholics that hurdles of ancient antagonism may be overcome and that a desire for full communion may grow between Russian and Rome. Thus Rome’s aim is not so much to convert the Russians to Catholicism as to soften their hearts with love.

      8 ) Except for opposition to full communion with the Successor of Peter, there is no doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church that the Catholic Church regards as heretical. Thus to foster their theological development is to foster nothing but the propogation of the true Gospel, a true and worthy cause for Christian Charity.

      • “1) The Russian Orthodox Churches are true local churches”

        Firstly: are they? Given that they were founded, as you have pointed out, after the Great Schism, are they in fact true dioceses? Given that they were, necessarily, founded neither by Apostles, nor Popes, nor successors of the Apostles in communion with the Pope, are they legitimate dioceses?

        Secondly, even if they are: as I said earlier: a true and proper branch cut off from the vine is nonetheless cut off from the vine; to extend the metaphor: our duty is to work towards grafting dismembered branches back onto the vine. But if this is not feasible, we cannot do anything to confirm the branch in its lack of vine-ness, even if we expect that doing so in the short term is a preparation for grafting in the long term, because that’s doing evil in order that good may come of it. And although one may permit a lesser evil in order to avert a greater evil, one may never do a lesser evil (here, taking action to perpetuate the lack of vine-ness) even if an even greater evil will result–the complete withering-away and destruction of the branch.

        “2) Like many of the ancient churches of the East, the Russian Churches have never been in communion with the Church of Rome”

        The most important fact of all.

        “3) Their bishops thus have true claim to be true bishops of true Churches in the dioceses in the territories of Russia”

        No, they might be true Bishops in true Churches (though their true-Church status seems unclear to me) but they aren’t true Ordinaries of true Churchs–they are usurpers of ordinary jurisdiction.

        “4) The Russian Orthodox Churches are thus the true native Churches of Russia.”

        Irrelevant to the question of whether or not Church organisations are co-operating formally in evil (which, as I have shown, they are).

        “5) … The ROC was never, from its institution, in communion with Rome in the first place.”

        Needless repetition of 2).

        “6) The Catholic Churches in Russia …”

        Irrelevant to the question of whether or not Church organisations are co-operating formally in evil, until we reach the part where you say

        “(the latter ideally undertaken in cooperation with and not in competition with the Orthodox Churches)”

        Yet more co-operation in evil! You are only amplifying the scandal!

        “7) The Church of Rome’s goal in regards to the Churches of Russia is to foster such good will between Russians and Catholics that hurdles of ancient antagonism may be overcome and that a desire for full communion may grow between Russian and Rome.”

        Doing evil in order that good may come of it.

        “Thus Rome’s aim is not so much to convert the Russians to Catholicism as to soften their hearts with love.”

        There we go. More proof of evil-doing in order that good may come of it. Can we try the same strategy with pro-abortion, pro-gay, pro-whatever-sin-you-care-to-mention folks and fund the perpetuation of their state of sin? Because what you are advocating is just the supernatural-level parallel to the natural-level things I’ve just mentioned.

        “8 ) Except for opposition to full communion with the Successor of Peter [WHICH IS BEING ADVOCATED IN CATHOLIC-FUNDED SEMINARIES!!! That’s a pretty big ‘exception’!!!–C.P.], there is no doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church that the Catholic Church regards as heretical.”

        Really? The Russians teach that the Pope is, jure divino, the Head of the Church Militant? That he has full, supreme and universal jurisdiction and that all ecclesiastical jurisdiction proceeds from him as from a principal and proper cause? That every human creature is of necessity for salvation to be subject to him? The Russians might teach the truth on many points of doctrine, but they surely don’t teach the truth on the most fundamental of all points of doctrine, namely, teaching authority.

        And what is their teaching on the indissolubility of marriage?

        The only relevant facts are:

        1. A.C.N. is funding the perpetuation of a schism–you acknowledge this, Mr. Schütz.
        2. The perpetuation of the schism is precisely what A.C.N. desires–you acknowledge this too, Mr. Schütz, and that is formal co-operation in evil.
        3. Defenders of this co-operation, including you, Mr. Schütz, hope thereby to dispose the Russian schismatics towards submission to Rome–but this is doing evil in order that good may come of it.

        What we have hear is formal co-operation in the perpetuation of a schism. However remote that co-operation might be, and however great the evil to be averted thereby might be, such co-operation is illicit. Can anyone refute this?

    • “Whilst I cannot help but think His Eminence’s rhetoric is a little unfortunate”

      In which respects? Examples, please.

      “I know it echoes the way that many Orthodox talk about us, but surely we should try & do better?”

      Suggestions, please.

  7. frdamian

    And let’s not forget that we were in a relationship of partial intercommunion with the Russian Orthodox from 1969-1984. Our relationship with the Russians is made very difficult by their relationship with the Greeks (or the attitude of many powerful monks from Mt Athos towards the Church of Rome)

  8. Salvatore

    David,

    Evidently I was unclear in my original reply. When I referred to the “Russian Catholic Church” I was not talking about Latin-Rite missions in Russia, but about the autonomous, Byzantine-Rite, Catholic Church of Russia (aka the “Russian Catholic Church”). This latter Church is, just like the Moscow Patriarchate, truly a Church, and truly Russian. However, as it is also truly Catholic (i.e. in communion with the Holy See) it is surely the more appropriate recipient of aid from a Catholic charity?

    I am also not sure I can agree with your assertion that “At no stage did the Russian Orthodox Church break communion with Rome.” Regardless of the circumstances of the foundation of the Church, they had a delegation at the Council of Florence and signed the Act of Union. The Church then repudiated the union and deposed & imprisoned the leader of the delegation (Isidore of Kiev). Surely this was an act of schism?

    • “Regardless of the circumstances of the foundation of the Church, they had a delegation at the Council of Florence and signed the Act of Union.”

      Interesting point, Salvatore. The plot thickens.

  9. Last call: can anyone refute that what defenders of the A.C.N.’s sponsorship of the Russian schism are advocating is formal, and hence sinful, co-operation in one of the worst of all evils, namely schism?

  10. I’ll just say I’m inclined to agree with Pole, here.

  11. Susan Peterson

    I am afraid that in my heart I am a Zoghbyite and think that we are all in schism. I think we should reunite and neither side should ask the other to declare that it has been “The Church” all along.
    Which was The Church, when there were two popes…or three? We just heave a sigh of a relief that that is long over and don’t worry about which group of adherents of which pope represented the real Church during that time. And we should do the same with the Orthodox. This schism is temporary and in the heart of God we are still one Church.
    I feel a wicked wish to deposit Cardinal Pole in the midst of Mt. Athos. They deserve each other.
    Susan Peterson
    ps I do think that the church is meant to have the successor of Peter at its head and that the western ecclesial model is more succesful and effective in being able to respond to the issues raised by each age, for example, contraception. Although they have done a beautiful job of preserving liturgy, I feel the eastern church is kind of drifiting otherwise without a center. But I don’t see them as “not Church” . I just can’t .