Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fr. Robert Taft and Where East and West Diverge

Robert Taft is, among liturgical scholars, a jewel in the Roman Church right now. Bi-ritual and highly knowledgeable of the Orthodox Church and its liturgy, Taft has always had much to teach both students of the liturgy and persons interested in Orthodox Christianity. Dan Nichols has recently linked to an interview Fr. Taft gave to First Things.

Taft's estimation of the Orthodox situation and the ability of "peer pressure" to get certain anti-Roman elements in line and the prospects for reunion are, I think, somewhat naive.

No one, I don't think, doubts the theoretical possibility of reunion, however, one denies the complexity of the issue if one doesn't reckon with three major theological critiques the Orthodox have with the West. Papal Infallibility and the Immaculate Conception are well known, however, the Orthodox have a more encompassing critique of the West's theology, both its severance from the Patristic theological method and its tendency to regularly reinvent theology without much regard for greater context.

For the most part, I side with the Orthodox - there is something to be said for having a coherent theological tradition. It is foolish to think, however, that the Orthodox would be willing to live and let live. Communion is a serious matter for the Orthodox; the Orthodox Church will not entertain reunion until the West undertakes a substantial critique of its own theological development. Again, I essentially side with the Orthodox. The Roman Church has often invented theology with no concern for continuity with the greater tradition, largely because for a long period of the time the scant knowledge of Greek and Hebrew divorced Catholicism from the greater tradition and create a tradition unto itself.

There have always been differences between Latin and Greek Christianity, however, at a certain point one must be willing to distinguish between differences born from cultural diversity and those born from intellectual isolation. It so happens that Latin Christianity developed many of its treasured traditions while in isolation from the large cache of thought that preceded it. This is not meant to be overly harsh, rather, it is meant to offer some perspective.