Should I be fractured by your lack of devotion?

We have read at Rorate Caeli—and elsewhere, we think—that the next Synod of Bishops is to take up the question of married Latin-rite clergy. (Among other questions.) Rorate tells us that Sandro Magister reports that a dearth of priests in some parts of South America, and Germany’s age-old obsession with innovation in the direction of, say, the liberal Lutherans, will be the thin end (thin ends?) of the wedge this time. But of course.

And Fr. John Hunwicke tells us what’s really at issue here:

Be in no doubt: the call for Married Priests is but a surrogate and a tactical preliminary for the real battle: the struggle for the admission of women to Holy Order.

Women Priests; and Abortion; and Dissolution of the bonds between Sexuality, Matrimony and Fertility; are the unholy and inglorious Triad with which the Enemy at this particular historical moment plots the de radicibus destruction of the whole state of Christ’s Church militant here in Earth. People who can’t see that are a major part of the problem.

Believe me, I know. I’ve spent most of my life as an Anglican; and we refugees from Old Mother Damnable know exactly how these things are managed. The tools include Gradualism (give people time to get used to the idea: if you spring things on them too abruptly they might discover that they have principles). And Dialogue (“We just want our voices, our experiences to be heard; why can’t we all just talk?”). 

At the heart of it is getting the whole jigsaw complete except for just that one last piece … which now so easily and so naturally slips into its allotted slot.

(Emphasis and colors in original.) The problem, of course, with this plan is Ordinatio sacerdotalis, which has generally been seen as an infallible pronouncement. But have no fear: the infallibility of Ordinatio sacerdotalis, as Cardinal Ratzinger pointed out in his doctrinal commentary on the Profession of Faith required by Ad tuendam Fidem, stems from the fact that the limitation of ordination to men has been set forth infallibly by the Church’s ordinary and universal Magisterium, not an exercise of the pope’s extraordinary Magisterium (as governed by Pastor aeternus). Ah, they’ll say, John Paul never proclaimed it as a dogma! Even Ratzinger said so! It’s up for debate!

This, of course, is in keeping with what Raymond Cardinal Burke has identified, correctly, as part of the obliteration of John Paul’s pontificate. Remember that the tendentious misquotation (or partial quotation) of John Paul’s Familiaris consortio is one of the key pillars of the Kasperites’ argument. In a recent interview with The Wanderer, Cardinal Burke observed:

I was truly disheartened that the final report stopped short of presenting the full teaching of Familiaris Consortio in the matter. First of all, the truth as presented by St. John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio was misrepresented in the Synod’s document as was the truth as illustrated and underlined in the Pontifical Council’s document. That in itself discouraged me very much, especially in consideration of the fact that it was done at the level of a Synod of Bishops.

At the same time, I was also disturbed because I knew this would be used by individuals like Fr. Spadaro and others to say that the Church has changed her teaching in this regard, which, in fact, is simply not true.

I really believe that the whole teaching in Familiaris Consortio should have been addressed through the final document of the Synod. During my experience of the 2014 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, it was as if Pope John Paul II never existed. If one studies the Synod’s final document, the richness of the magisterial teaching of Familiaris Consortio, which is such a beautiful document, is not there.

(Emphasis and some formatting supplied.) And, really, that seems to be what the last few years have been—a forgetting, one way or another, of John Paul’s pontificate.

Obviously, John Paul’s teachings are hugely inconvenient to the progressives—especially his teachings about birth control, priestly ordination, and divorce and remarriage, to say nothing of his Rotal jurisprudence (which most progressives probably don’t know too well)—but orthodoxy usually is. The desire to obliterate John Paul’s memory, while raising him to the altars and recalling the extraordinary scenes that accompanied him wherever he went, seems to go beyond that, however.

What was it about John Paul, then, that provokes such a desire to forget him?

Further dialogue with the Anglicans in the shadow of schism?

Edward Pentin also has a very interesting piece about the Anglican conference in Canterbury. He begins,

The Anglican Communion stands on the verge of formal schism this week, as its leaders began meeting today to discuss the issue of homosexuality and other matters in Canterbury, England.

The five-day meeting, called by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, is seen as a last-ditch attempt to keep the ecclesial community together following a long-running dispute over homosexuality and deeper differences over how Anglicans should interact with today’s largely secular, post-Christian society.

(Emphasis supplied.) We, of course, are interested in this as the Anglican church is an interesting topic. Not being Anglican or a member of one of the Ordinariates, we would not however say we have a rooting interest one way or the other. Except with respect to this point:

The Vatican, meanwhile, is watching events in Canterbury closely. It argues that, for dialogue between Rome and Canterbury to effectively continue, the Anglican Communion must stay as one, but it recognizes that its dispersed authority model makes that an almost impossible task. It is perplexed at Anglicans’ wish to allow local and regional bishops to decide on doctrinal matters without seemingly having a sense of what is owed to the communion as a whole, but recognizes that Welby is not, as he has said himself, an “Anglican pope.”

(Emphasis supplied.) Wait, what?

We were under the impression that the Anglicans drew a bold line through, not under, further dialogue with Rome when they went forward with making some women bishops. One can get into Apostolicae curae and whether Anglican orders were ever valid—the good and holy Pope Leo XIII reached his own conclusion, notwithstanding contrary views—but it’s not really necessary now. Whatever you’d have to do about women presbyters (and Rome’s answer is simple but perhaps hard to sell to the female ministers), you’d have to do about women bishops and the presbyters they ordained, man or woman.

Which is, of course, to say that whether there is one Anglican communion or a Canterbury Group and a GAFCON, the question is not whether Rome can conduct dialogue with all Anglicans. It can’t. The question is whether Rome can conduct fruitful dialogue with some Anglican jurisdictions. And that’s a harder question to answer, as it seems that the GAFCON jurisdictions take the protestant and reformed bits of the Anglican identity somewhat more seriously than the Canterbury side of the line of scrimmage. On the other hand, it is good to see that Rome is taking the Anglican crisis seriously, since the Anglican crisis could expose some of the potential fault lines within the Church. But one doubts that that is the message that they’re taking away from all this.

Obviously, it would be good if the Anglicans returned to full communion with Peter, but dialogue is a two-way street.

A fresh shipment of tea leaves

The Holy Father has a new book out tomorrow—a lengthy interview or series of interviews with Andrea Tornielli called The Name of God Is Mercy—and Edward Pentin has some extracts at the National Catholic Register. We found this passage particularly interesting, largely because almost no one talks about John Paul I these days:

The Holy Father also remembers being touched by the writings of his predecessor Pope John Paul I, Albino Luciani. “There is the homily when Albino Luciani said he had been chosen because the Lord preferred that certain things not be engraved in bronze or marble but in the dust, so that if the writing had remained, it would have been clear that the merit was all and only God’s. He, the bishop and future Pope John Paul I, called himself ‘dust’.”

“I have to say that when I speak of this, I always think of what Peter told Jesus on the Sunday of his resurrection, when he met him on his own, a meeting hinted at in the Gospel of Luke. What might Peter have said to the Messiah upon his resurrection from the tomb? Might he have said that he felt like a sinner? He must have thought of his betrayal, of what had happened a few days earlier when he pretended three times not to recognise Jesus in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house. He must have thought of his bitter and public tears.”

“If Peter did all of that, if the gospels describe his sin and denials to us, and if despite all this Jesus said [to him], ‘tend my sheep’ (John 21), I don’t think we should be surprised if his successors describe themselves as sinners. It is nothing new.”

(Quotation marks in original.) However, we suspect, since the anticipation is that the Holy Father will issue his post-Synodal exhortation sometime this year, that The Name of God Is Mercy will be read and re-read for hints, if one needs or even wants further hints, on the Holy Father’s inclination on the Kasperite proposal. It is our understanding, however, that the interviews took place prior to the Ordinary General Assembly in October 2015, so we wonder if the book has been tweaked or edited to reflect any shifts in the Holy Father’s thinking since then.

Vespers at Hampton Court Palace on Feb. 9

Late last week, the Catholic Herald reported that vespers will be sung in the Chapel Royal at Cardinal Wolsey’s great Hampton Court Palace for the first time since the English reformation. From the Herald,

On Tuesday February 9 Cardinal Vincent Nichols will celebrate Vespers in King Henry VIII’s chapel.

The Vespers, at Hampton Court Palace’s Chapel Royal, will be celebrated in the Latin Rite and the Anglican Bishop of London will deliver a sermon.

The service will be dedicated to St John the Baptist, as the Chapel Royal was built by Cardinal Wolsey on the site of a chapel of the Knights of St John Hospitaller, dedicated to that saint.

The music will be performed by Harry Christophers and his ensembles The Sixteen and Genesis Sixteen.

Before Vespers is celebrated, Cardinal Nichols and the Bishop of London will host a discussion on the bonds between their churches and the dialogue they have had over the centuries.

(Emphasis supplied.)

We suspect that the point of this service is not to sing vespers in a Catholic rite at the Chapel Royal, but to provide an edifying and pleasant liturgical framework for a Catholic-Anglican prayer service in the aftermath of the meeting of Anglican primates this month. Had we been asked, we might have suggested bringing in some Benedictines from Farnborough to sing vespers according to the traditional Benedictine rite, which would be, for the most part, very familiar to Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey, and the rest of the men and women who made Hampton Court Palace so famous. It would also be a nice way of nodding to the long, rich history of the Benedictines in England.

I’ll have to go to Las Vegas or Monaco

A little while back, at The Paraphasic, Elliot Milco had a lengthy post on the definition of capitalism. One may be excused for missing the discussions in various places over the last eighteen months, but the question of capitalism is one of the most vexing questions for serious Catholic thinkers. (It should be, anyway.) In the American Church, doctrinal conservatives are usually (not always, but usually) political conservatives. Consequently, Catholic doctrinal conservatives tend to favor the sort of robust—unrestrained?—free-market capitalism favored on the American political right. However, the Church has long been suspicious—since Rerum novarum, in fact—of the sort of robust free-market capitalism that is so popular among conservative American Catholics. This creates tensions, especially since many traditionally minded Catholics reject the conservative political consensus that capitalism is hugely virtuous.

Last month, we noted that the lack of a workable definition of economic liberalism created issues for traditionally minded Catholics in arguing against the robust-free-market positions taken by doctrinally conservative Catholics who have thrown in with American political conservatives. We proposed a definition articulated by the great Canadian Thomist Henri Grenier in his Thomistic Philosophy. Elliot Milco identifies a similar problem with respect to the definition of capitalism, and he sets out to work out a good, functional definition.

It seems clear that the “obvious” definition of Capitalism in the air (i.e. the one which occurs most readily) is something like this: Capitalism is a model of commercial activity in which the maximization of profits is pursued as the primary (or even exclusive) end of business.

(Emphasis in original.) He then examines some of the limitations of this definition and comes up with a slightly restated definition:

Capitalism is a model of commercial activity in which we attempt, through labor, exchange, and other means, to maximize our assets, considered in terms of their exchange value, and pursue this maximization as the primary or even exclusive end of commerce.

(Emphasis in original.) This definition seems to us to be very workable, at least as a starting place when discussing capitalism in the context of the Church’s traditional social teaching.

To understand why Milco’s definition works, even if one thinks that it could be improved, perhaps we had better look at an older definition. Which, of course, means turning to Henri Grenier’s Thomistic Philosophy again. Grenier first gives the definition of capital:

Capital, according to its strict meaning in Economics, is defined: the part of produced wealth reserved or in actual use for new production; v.g., instruments and machines of every kind, the various kinds of primary products required for production, and the whole gamut of economic operations.

In modern usage, any kind of wealth is called capital; and capital is divided into social capital and juridical capital.

Under the heading of social capital come all wealth and material goods of all kinds.

Under the heading of juridical capital come money and things of pecuniary value.

(3 Thomistic Philosophy § 1145, 1º) (italics in original and emphasis supplied). With that in place, Grenier proceeds to define capitalism, though it will be seen that the definition of capitalism follows trivially from the definition of capital.

But before we get there, Grenier distinguishes between a general definition and a pejorative definition of capitalism. This is an interesting move, though how much of a move it actually is remains to be seen. The general definition he gives as:

Capitalism in itself signifies capitalistic production, i.e., production in which all agencies distinct from capital are more or less under the sway of capital. It is an economic system, then, in which capital plays a preponderant role, and in which the function of capital is separate from the function of labor.

(3 Thomistic Philosophy § 1145, 2º) (emphasis supplied). In other words, the general definition of capitalism is an economic system in which either material goods or money (i.e., social or juridical capital) is the key player and separate from labor.

Grenier then gives the pejorative definition:

Capitalism, in its pejorative meaning, may be described: systems of economic and social relations, born of capitalistic production, in which the holders of economic and social capital, and especially of juridical capital, i.e., of money, in their eagerness for excessive profits, play not only a preponderant but an unlawful and abusive role.

(Id.) (emphasis in original). The difference between the pejorative definition and the general definition is not particularly clear; or, to put it less controversially, it is a matter of degree. That is, in the general definition, capitalism is the mode of production in which wealth or money (i.e., social or juridical capital) plays a preponderant role. In the pejorative definition, the holders of wealth or money, “especially” money, exceed their preponderant role and play an unlawful and abusive role. This definition admits of shades of gray, to say the least.

We see that Milco’s definition is more practical. While Grenier is undoubtedly correct in strict terms, he is also undoubtedly abstract. One of the favored accusations of the Actonistas and the other Catholics who uphold the robust free market as a good in and of itself is that the Catholics who hold and follow the Church’s traditional social teaching do not understand economics. (As though that makes a difference.) Grenier’s definition plays into that problem: capitalism is “an economic system . . . in which capital plays a preponderant role, and in which the function of capital is separate from the function of labor.” This definition, while undeniably correct in a strict sense, points toward other, more complicated concepts. At some point, you’ll have to grapple with economic concepts if you want to use Grenier’s definition, just as the political conservatives allege. Milco’s definition, on the other hand, is couched in more practical terms. When people talk about capitalism, they undoubtedly mean more or less what Milco sets forth in his definition.

To put it another way, when people talk about capitalism, they probably do not mean the system in which capital, which is to say wealth of various forms, plays the central role in production. That definition is a little opaque. Certainly, Grenier’s predicate definitions can clear things up, and distinguishing a general and a pejorative definition helps, but, even at that, the definition is still going to be a little stilted. What people talk about when they talk about capitalism is probably more or less what Milco says: “a model of commercial activity in which we attempt, through labor, exchange, and other means, to maximize our assets, considered in terms of their exchange value, and pursue this maximization as the primary or even exclusive end of commerce.” (Emphasis omitted.) So, as we have noted before, when traditionally minded Catholics try to engage with Actonistas or other Catholics who think that the free market is per se good, there’s bound to be trouble.

One interesting aspect of Milco’s definition, which deserves special mention, is that it points out the extent to which modern thinking about capitalism is morally questionable from the get-go. This is to say, the unrestrained profit motive is the primary moral problem with capitalism. Recall that Aquinas addresses the profit motive in IIa IIae q.77 a.4, where he takes up the question, utrum liceat negotiando aliquid charius vendere quam emere, cf. IIa IIae q.77 pr., or whether it is lawful in trading to sell something at a higher price than paid for it. Aquinas draws a careful distinction:

Respondeo dicendum quod ad negotiatores pertinet commutationibus rerum insistere. Ut autem philosophus dicit, in I Polit., duplex est rerum commutatio. Una quidem quasi naturalis et necessaria, per quam scilicet fit commutatio rei ad rem, vel rerum et denariorum, propter necessitatem vitae. Et talis commutatio non proprie pertinet ad negotiatores, sed magis ad oeconomicos vel politicos, qui habent providere vel domui vel civitati de rebus necessariis ad vitam. Alia vero commutationis species est vel denariorum ad denarios, vel quarumcumque rerum ad denarios, non propter res necessarias vitae, sed propter lucrum quaerendum. Et haec quidem negotiatio proprie videtur ad negotiatores pertinere. Secundum philosophum autem, prima commutatio laudabilis est, quia deservit naturali necessitati. Secunda autem iuste vituperatur, quia, quantum est de se, deservit cupiditati lucri, quae terminum nescit sed in infinitum tendit. Et ideo negotiatio, secundum se considerata, quandam turpitudinem habet, inquantum non importat de sui ratione finem honestum vel necessarium. Lucrum tamen, quod est negotiationis finis, etsi in sui ratione non importet aliquid honestum vel necessarium, nihil tamen importat in sui ratione vitiosum vel virtuti contrarium. Unde nihil prohibet lucrum ordinari ad aliquem finem necessarium, vel etiam honestum. Et sic negotiatio licita reddetur. Sicut cum aliquis lucrum moderatum, quod negotiando quaerit, ordinat ad domus suae sustentationem, vel etiam ad subveniendum indigentibus, vel etiam cum aliquis negotiationi intendit propter publicam utilitatem, ne scilicet res necessariae ad vitam patriae desint, et lucrum expetit non quasi finem, sed quasi stipendium laboris.

This translation is the English Dominican translation made available by the Dominican House of Studies website:

 I answer that, A tradesman is one whose business consists in the exchange of things. According to the Philosopher (Polit. i, 3), exchange of things is twofold; one, natural as it were, and necessary, whereby one commodity is exchanged for another, or money taken in exchange for a commodity, in order to satisfy the needs of life. Such like trading, properly speaking, does not belong to tradesmen, but rather to housekeepers or civil servants who have to provide the household or the state with the necessaries of life. The other kind of exchange is either that of money for money, or of any commodity for money, not on account of the necessities of life, but for profit, and this kind of exchange, properly speaking, regards tradesmen, according to the Philosopher (Polit. i, 3). The former kind of exchange is commendable because it supplies a natural need: but the latter is justly deserving of blame, because, considered in itself, it satisfies the greed for gain, which knows no limit and tends to infinity. Hence trading, considered in itself, has a certain debasement attaching thereto, in so far as, by its very nature, it does not imply a virtuous or necessary end. Nevertheless gain which is the end of trading, though not implying, by its nature, anything virtuous or necessary, does not, in itself, connote anything sinful or contrary to virtue: wherefore nothing prevents gain from being directed to some necessary or even virtuous end, and thus trading becomes lawful. Thus, for instance, a man may intend the moderate gain which he seeks to acquire by trading for the upkeep of his household, or for the assistance of the needy: or again, a man may take to trade for some public advantage, for instance, lest his country lack the necessaries of life, and seek gain, not as an end, but as payment for his labor.

It may be worth noting, given the Common Doctor’s repeated citation to Aristotle here, that in his volume of the Blackfriars Summa, Marcus Lefébure, O.P., argued that Aquinas’s position represents a “discreet[] but definite[]” break with Aristotle regarding commercial activity for profit (vol. 38, p. 228, cmt. b). It’s an interesting point that turns on Aristotle’s Politics I, 3, and it seems to us that it is entirely possible that Aquinas softens a hard-line Aristotelian injunction against commerce for profit. On the other hand, Aquinas’s fundamental argument—profit is in se morally neutral, and the morality of profit seeking is determined by its end—is not wholly alien to Aristotle’s point in the Politics. At any rate, one ought to recognize that, while Aquinas brings Aristotle into the debate, it is not at all clear that Aristotle would have reached the same answer as Aquinas.

That aside, without getting too deeply into Aquinas’s argument (or Aristotle’s, for that matter), we think—though we could probably convinced otherwise—that Aquinas intends to separate the small businessman, to use common parlance, from speculators or traders more generally. It is, perhaps, the difference between the proprietor of the corner grocery store and the commodity trader. Aquinas would likely say that the grocer, who is likely supporting his family, probably does not have a moral problem when he makes his modest profit. And, since his modest profit is intended to support his family, he probably could not be blamed for taking that profit seriously and attempting to increase it modestly. But the commodity trader may well have a moral problem when he makes a killing shorting frozen concentrated orange juice based upon a crop forecast. But that’s because the commodity trader views the maximization of profits as his sole (or preeminent) end. If the commodity trader needed millions of dollars to support his family or if he labored mightily and perilously to obtain FCOJ for a grateful nation, then the story might be different.

But what if the grocer runs his store like the commodity trader? What if he sets out to maximize his assets through trading? Certainly, he’s not likely to corner the FCOJ market with Mortimer and Randolph Duke, but he could very well have a fundamentally capitalistic outlook on his business. He could well want gain for gain’s sake, which Aquinas tells us is morally troublesome. This is what we mean when we say that the unrestrained profit motive is the primary moral problem with capitalism.

And Milco’s proposed definition brings this problem to the front of the debate. The definition he proposes certainly captures some essential element of the current, popular thinking on what capitalism means. It just so happens that that current, popular thinking has problems.

Postscript: Elliot Milco had some very kind things to say about Semiduplex very recently. For the most part, we note, this post was written before he made his very generous statements. We do, however, appreciate very much his notice. 


More on the Holy Innocents

A little while back, we posted about the feast of the Holy Innocents, including some passing remarks to certain changes in the liturgical aspect of the feast. At New Liturgical Movement, again, Gregory DiPippo has a very long, very interesting piece about many aspects of the feast. A brief selection:

Writing about a century later, William Durandus rejects Sicard’s idea that these customs refer to the Innocents descent to the Limbo of the Fathers, since if that were the case, the same would have to be observed with St John the Baptist. He does agree with Amalarius, citing his words very closely, and then explains that “the songs of joy” (i.e. the GloriaTe Deum and Alleluia) are sung if the feast falls on Sunday, and always sung on its octave, “to signify the joy which they will receive on the eighth day, that is, in the resurrection. Although they did go down to (the Limbo of the Fathers), nevertheless they will rise with us in glory; for the octaves of feasts are celebrated in memory of the general resurrection, which they signify.” This is exactly the custom prescribed by the Missal of St Pius V and its late medieval antecedents. Durandus also knows of the custom “in many churches” that the dalmatic and tunicle were not worn, but this is not followed by the Tridentine Missal. (Rationale Divinorum Officiorum VII, 42, 11-12)

Go read the whole thing there. (Or save it to read later.)

Supersessionism and the Good Friday prayer

Fr. John Hunwicke has been keeping up a steady series of posts regarding not only the Vatican’s recent theological meditation regarding the Church’s mission to the Jews but also other issues relating to the Church’s relationship with the Jewish faith. One point he has come back to repeatedly is the attempt by the English episcopate (and the German episcopate before them) to get Rome to reconsider Pope Benedict’s Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews. In the 1962 books as issued in 1962, the prayer was different and some folks objected to it, so Benedict sat down and wrote a new prayer for the Forma Extraordinaria. This, too, has drawn criticism.

Today, Fr. Hunwicke points out that there are readings in the Liturgia Horarum that might be considered of a piece with the objectionable prayers in the EF Good Friday liturgy, and he wonders aloud whether the English or German bishops have complained about those, too. (For our part, we wonder if certain passages in the Roman Breviary in 1960 have come in for as much criticism as one prayer in the Good Friday liturgy. We doubt it.) One other perhaps more interesting thing that Fr. Hunwicke has done is to actually listen to Jewish thinkers as they talk about some of these issues. Obviously, the Church can come—and has come, fairly consistently from Pentecost to the present day, in fact—to her own conclusions on the question. However, interfaith dialogue presumes, well, dialogue.

One almost wishes for a return to the good old days (the good old bad old days?) when the disputants would get together and hash these questions out in front of an audience. That’s dialogue. Not ponderous statements or joint declarations written by committees for other committees to read and respond to. And conferences, seminars, workshops, and roundtables to dissect endlessly. (Until it’s time for a new round.) It would be very interesting to hear all sides of this question have a vigorous discussion. With representatives of the major schools of Jewish thought present to offer context and reaction. Rabbi Berger, according to Fr. Hunwicke, raises some interesting parallels that, we suppose, many Catholics simply will not be familiar with. The laity might actually learn something from a vigorous, viva voce debate, too.

News on the Pan-Orthodox Council

Gabriel Sanchez, whose sense of the Orthodox world is much keener than ours, has a brief, interesting comment about the planned Pan-Orthodox Council. In short, Sanchez says that there are now doubts that it will happen at all, or, if it does, it won’t do much:

If one peruses world Orthodoxy news from the last few months, one is likely left with the impression that the forthcoming 2016 Pan-Orthodox Council will either not happen or be rendered meaningless by a lack of global participation if it does. The Council, which some observers see as a power play by the Ecumenical Patriarch (EP), has received — at best — tepid enthusiasm from the Moscow Patriarch (MP), the largest patriarchate in the Orthodox Church today. It is well known that the EP and MP have been at each other’s throats in recent years over the question of primacy, with the comparatively weaker EP asserting by right with the MP quietly, but noticeably, holding to primacy in fact. Given Moscow’s expansive vision of its power and influence as embodied in its “Russian World” ideology, it is extremely doubtful that it would acquiesce to any proceedings which risk compromising its unique — and some might say “central” — position in Eastern Orthodoxy today.

(Emphasis supplied.) Last year, things were much sunnier, indeed.

To get an idea of some of the issues Sanchez talks about—particularly how the Moscow Patriarchate views some of the issues confronting Orthodoxy, such as the Ukraine crisis and relations with Rome—read Edward Pentin’s interview last year with Metropolitan Hilarion, an important figure in the Moscow Patriarchate. (Hilarion’s remarks drew a vigorous rebuttal with respect to his accusations of “Uniatism.”) It seems very reasonable to us to speculate that Moscow will not agree to anything that might run the risk of compromising, as Sanchez says, its status within Orthodoxy. After all, it has captured what it sees as a good position, why give it up?

All of this is interesting, of course, from an observational standpoint. But we think it is even more interesting from the standpoint of Catholic-Orthodox relations. The Holy Father’s close relationship with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has given many people hope for further improvement in Catholic-Orthodox relations. (Both Francis and Bartholomew are deeply concerned with the environment, for one thing.) But any assessment of Catholic-Orthodox relations ignores the Moscow Patriarchate at its own risk. To put it another way: if Moscow can throw a wrench in the Pan-Orthodox Council, then Moscow can throw a wrench in anything.

Read Sanchez’s whole comment—there are other, interesting points he makes.