One of the documents that Eastern Catholics love to use as a defense for the idea of being Orthodox in Communion with Rome is the Ratzinger Solution or Proposal. It says:
Rome must not require more from the East with respect to the doctrine of primacy than had been formulated and was lived in the first millennium. When the Patriarch Athenagoras, on July 25, 1967, on the occasion of the Pope’s visit to Phanar, designated him as the successor of St. Peter, as the most esteemed among us, as one also presides in charity, this great Church leader was expressing the essential content of the doctrine of primacy as it was known in the first millennium. Rome need not ask for more. Reunion could take place in this context if, on the one hand, the East would cease to oppose as heretical the developments that took place in the West in the second millennium and would accept the Catholic Church as legitimate and orthodox in the form she had acquired in the course of that development, while, on the other hand, the West would recognize the Church of the East as orthodox and legitimate in the form she has always had. Ratzinger, Joseph: Principles of Catholic Theology, Ignatius, 1976, page 199
This small citation seems very hopeful for the idea of being Orthodox in Communion with Rome and for Orthodox/Catholic dialogue. BUT, In 1988 Pope Benedict (then still Joseph Ratzinger) explained further what he meant and clarified his earlier statement. This clarification [the bolded parts were bolded by a friend of mine who sent this to me.My friend’s blog can be viewed at http://orthocath.wordpress.com/ ] points to important texts that seem to refute the OICWR idea.
A kind of ecumenical dogma seems to be developing here which needs some attention. Quite likely it began with this train of thought: for intercommunion with the Orthodox, the Catholic Church need not necessarily insist on acceptance of the dogmas of the second millennium. It was presumed that the Eastern Churches have retained the traditional form of the first millennium, which in itself is legitimate and, if rightly understood, contains no contradiction to further developments. The latter after all only unfolded what was already there in principle in the time of the undivided Church. I myself have already taken part in attempts to work out things like this [here he cites what he wrote in 1976 inPrinciples of Catholic Theology]), but meanwhile they have grown out of hand to the point at which councils and the dogmatic decisions of the second millennium are supposed not to be regarded as ecumenical but as particular developments in the Latin Church, constituting its private property in the sense of “our two traditions”. But this distorts the first attempt to think things out into a completely new thesis with far-reaching consequences. For this way of looking at it actually implies a denial of the existence of the Universal Church in the second millennium, while tradition as a living, truth-giving power is frozen at the end of the first. This strikes at the very heart of the idea of Church and tradition, because ultimately such an age test dissolves the full authority of the Church, which is then left without a voice at the present day. Moreover, one might well ask, in reply to such an assertion, with what right people’s consciences, in such a particular Church as the Latin Church would then be, could be bound by such pronouncements. What once appeared as truth would have to be characterized as mere custom. The claim to truth that had hitherto been upheld would thus be disqualified as an abuse.
Unity is a fundamental hermeneutic principle of all theology, and hence we must learn to read the documental that have been handed down to us according to the hermeneutics of unity, which gives us a fresh view of many things and opens doors where only bolts were visible before. Such a hermeneutics of unity will entail reading the statements of both parties in the context of the whole tradition and with a deeper understanding of the Bible. This will include investigating how far decisions since the separation have been stamped with a certain particularization of both language and thought–something that might well be transcended without doing violence to the content of the statements. For hermeneutics is not a skillful device for escaping from burdensome authorities by a change of verbal function (though this abuse has often occurred), but rather apprehending the word with an understanding that at the same time discovers in it new possibilities.
Ecumenical dialogue does not mean to opt out of the living, Christian reality, but rather it means advancing by means of the hermeneutics of unity. To opt out and cut oneself off means artificial withdrawal into a past beyond recall; it means reducing tradition to the past. But that is to transfer ecumenism into an artificial world while one goes on practicing particularization by fencing off one’s own thing. Since this preserve is regarded as immune from dialogue but is still clung to, it is lowered from the realm of truth into the sphere of mere custom. Finally, the question arises of whether it is a matter of truth at all or just a question of comparing different customs and finding a way of reconciling them. In any case, the axiom that introducing dogmatic definitions made since the separation should be regarded as “not in keeping with dialogue” would mean a flight into the artificial, which should be firmly resisted.
Joseph Ratzinger, “Problems and Prospects of the Anglican-Catholic Dialogue,” Church, Ecumenism and Politics, pp. 83-84, 84-85.
We Eastern Catholics should ponder the words of Pope Benedict and really examine our belief in the idea of being Orthodox in Communion with Rome. Not that all Eastern Catholics buy into the OICWR idea. It did strike me to the core and is making me examine my beliefs. The Ratzinger proposal was something I believed in, but it seems that Pope Benedict didn’t mean it as many see it, as his later clarification seems to imply.
I , and many, fully believe[d] that “Rome must not require more from the East with respect to the doctrine of primacy than had been formulated and was lived in the first millennium” but does Rome?
Just something to think about.