Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Nothing improves a pandemic like intercommunion. Or something.

(NCR) - In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis March 27 characterized the worldwide trauma as: "God's call on people to judge what is most important to them and resolve to act accordingly from now on." Can this occasion also be a time of deeper communion among us?

Catholics, Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox hierarchs, pastors and faithful agree that the Eucharist, the body and blood of the Son of God, is the most precious gift of God to the church.  It is of paramount importance to us!

Nevertheless, while sharing the same belief in the supreme importance of the Eucharist, we still refrain from sharing the bread and cup with each other because of doctrinal divergences.

Perhaps this pandemic is an occasion for those committed to fostering the unity of Christians to consider a leap forward: Would the Catholic, Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches consider an expansion of sacramental sharing, especially eucharistic sharing, on a reciprocal, ordinary basis?

A basis for such consideration can be gleaned from the common declarations and statements already issued by the churches. For example, the 1996 Armenian and Catholic Common Declaration stated that the leaders of the two communities, Pope John Paul II and Catholicos Karekin I, recognized "the deep spiritual communion which already unites them and the Bishops, clergy and lay faithful of their Churches."

"Because of the fundamental common faith in God and in Jesus Christ, the controversies and unhappy divisions which sometimes have followed upon the divergent ways in expressing it … should not continue to influence the life and witness of the Church today," said the declaration...
Complete article here.


  1. Why the current crisis would be a good time to make these radical changes is never once spelled out. It's of a piece with the earlier "Pandemic! So let's talk about the female diaconate."

  2. No time like a pandemic to hang together, or hang separately. ;)

  3. As one Orthodox bishop told one of his predecessors: It is your office that is one of the greatest barriers to unity. It was true in the 1960s and remains so today.

  4. And yet, where is the example one might otherwise expect--in the absence of the papacy? Orthodox and Oriental Orth. remain out of communion--indeed East. Orth. are out of communion with their own brethren, doctrinal unanimity notwithstanding.

    1. Well, that's the million dollar question is it not, what is the doctrinal differences between the non-chalcedonians and the Orthodox churches of the east? Respectfully Dr. Butcher, you know as well as anyone (or should) the problematics of the assertion of " doctrinal unanimity notwithstanding". You should also be more realistic about the office of the Papacy itself as a unifying reality in your own communion...but maybe that is too preachy for you.

      Still, I would encourage you to continue to bring forward this deep Unam Sanctam question to the Orthodox who display such a shallow awareness of it and seem to just assume that all is well in their Imperial Church of the East...

  5. The office of the Papacy has never been a source of unity not one in it's meandering and scattered history.

    The NCR proposal puts me in mind of the old Bill Cosby sketch in which, as a child, he faked illness to stay home from school. Then once school was over he told his mom that a little angel came down and said "You are well, go out and play". The NCR proposal demonstrates the same magical thinking devoid of seriousness and spiritual reality.