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(I'm posting this on a cell phone, so tell me if you have trouble reading this).                                                   I've been wondering if I could possibly reconsider some things, get my head around some dogmas, and achieve union with Rome (which, for me, would mean joining a Melkite church nearby since I'm currently Orthodox). I wonder if there are Eastern Catholics here who could give me their two cents on these questions (along with everyone else, of course). I have a lot of questions, but right not I'll just start with three (maybe 3 1/2).     #1. Why are doctrines like the Immaculate Conception considered dogma instead of, say, a theologoumenon?                                 #2. Can an Eastern Catholic accept doctrines like the Immaculate Conception (to stick with that example) as a theologoumenon and not a dogma?                                         #3. If there are still eastern patriarchs, in what sense does the Pope have (and exercise) papal authority over the east?                     It is my understanding that the union between Rome and the Eastern churches is an attempt to live like the Church lived during the first millennium of Church history. Is this true? Thanks.
(06-09-2019, 12:43 AM)Athens Wrote: [ -> ](I'm posting this on a cell phone, so tell me if you have trouble reading this).                                                   I've been wondering if I could possibly reconsider some things, get my head around some dogmas, and achieve union with Rome (which, for me, would mean joining a Melkite church nearby since I'm currently Orthodox). I wonder if there are Eastern Catholics here who could give me their two cents on these questions (along with everyone else, of course). I have a lot of questions, but right not I'll just start with three (maybe 3 1/2).     #1. Why are doctrines like the Immaculate Conception considered dogma instead of, say, a theologoumenon?                                 #2. Can an Eastern Catholic accept doctrines like the Immaculate Conception (to stick with that example) as a theologoumenon and not a dogma?                                         #3. If there are still eastern patriarchs, in what sense does the Pope have (and exercise) papal authority over the east?                     It is my understanding that the union between Rome and the Eastern churches is an attempt to live like the Church lived during the first millennium of Church history. Is this true? Thanks.

1) Doctrines like the definition of the Immaculate Conception are not theologoumenon because they are defined ex cathedra by the successor of St. Peter.  This is a singular charism given to St. Peter and his successors in order to "confirm the brethren."  It is done by the divine assistance promised to the Roman Pontiff in St. Peter which the divine Redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals.  This allows the Roman Pontiff to define these doctrines concerning faith and morals without any possibility of failing in God's purpose.

2) No.  These sort of doctrines have absolute authority.

3) All bishops have their authority directly from the divine Redeemer, not from the Pope.  (Though the Roman Pontiff does confer or confirm jurisdiction of bishops.) However, the Pope, as successor of St. Peter, is the supreme pastor of the Holy Catholic Church.  This authority was conferred directly by Christ to St. Peter and his successors when our Lord said, "Feed my lambs, feed my sheep."  The successor of St. Peter is the visible head of the whole church, to whom bishops, clergy, religious and laity can appeal to settle disputes, clarify teachings, and bless pursuits.  The pope is therefore our visible sign of agreement and catholicity.

3a) It has been understood from the beginning, as ordained by the divine Redeemer himself, that St. Peter held a special primacy in the Church, that is, a real jurisdiction, and that this office and authority was conferred to all his successors.  The notion of "protos metaxy ison" in reference to the Roman Pontiff was a novelty that came to the forefront around 1054 AD.
I'm not an Easterner, but can try to provide you some answers :

(06-09-2019, 12:43 AM)Athens Wrote: [ -> ]#1. Why are doctrines like the Immaculate Conception considered dogma instead of, say, a theologoumenon?

A theologoumenon is the equivalent in Latin Catholic "teaching" or "doctrine" which is said to be "theologically certain". We assert it is certain and without doubt, but does not have it's source in Revelation, but rather in theological reasoning. Once theological reasoning comes into the fray, we cannot say something is dogma, but that does not mean it is not certainly true.

An example of this "doctrine" which is absolutely certain, but does not come from revelation, the moral test that caused the fallen angels to fall. This is not directly stated in Scripture and we have to reason backward from the punishment of the fallen angels (2 Pt 2.4; Jude 6), using truths of natural theology, so theological reasoning, and thus it is not dogma, but it would still be wrong to doubt it. One of the premises in the syllogism is a philosophical truth and not a revealed truth.

A dogma however, is sourced from revealed principles only. And so all that is being done is that the truths implicit already in those revealed premises are being drawn out. That is why the Deposit of Faith does not grow, but the clarity with which we know it does.

We also have other doctrines which are not as certain, and are, for instance, the common opinion of theologians, or a more probable opinion, or a probably opinion. We also have things which we would consider pious beliefs, which are not at odds with the Faith, but do not find support in revelation.

The reason the Immaculate Conception is considered dogma is that it has always been believed, and the truth of it can be found through what we would call "virtual revelation".

Some would have denied that Our Lady was conceived without Original Sin in the modern understanding of this word, because their concept of biology would hold that an embryo is not human until well after conception. All would assert that Mary from the moment her soul was infused, was sinless and preserved from Original Sin, and Scripture supports this by statements like "Hail, Full of Grace," and

What is meant by conception in the dogma is not some biological truth, but the moment at when the soul was created by God and infused into the bodily matter prepared for that soul. From that moment she had Sanctifying Grace (she was "Full of Grace"), and thus she was never stained with Original Sin.

Now, with modern biology having worked out that there is not a process in embryonic development which would suggest that human being goes through progressive stages at which it has a vegetative, then sensitive and finally rational human soul, we could assert that this is from the biological concept of conception, but that is not what the dogma itself teaches. That would be using natural reasoning, so at what moment the soul was infused is more a matter of theological opinion, though, given this natural knowledge it is quite certain that this was from the moment of biological conception and not simply from some moment after the biological conception when a human soul was infused.

The dogma has always been the same, that Mary was preserved from Original Sin. The natural truth simply removed the doubt about when that happened.

(06-09-2019, 12:43 AM)Athens Wrote: [ -> ]#2. Can an Eastern Catholic accept doctrines like the Immaculate Conception (to stick with that example) as a theologoumenon and not a dogma?

Short answer : No. Since it was defined by the Magisterium of the Church, it must be held by Faith and not just as something everyone accepts as true (though this would be sufficient to make it infallibly true). He must assert that Mary was always in the State of Grace from the moment her soul was infused in her body, and never was under the stain of Original Sin and he must hold this by Faith.

Longer answer : A Catholic has to assert the truth of the Immaculate Conception, and cannot deny it. It would be heresy to deny it. Most Catholics never need to or make the distinction as to the level of assent they must give to things, and take everything that they are taught on Faith without distinction. They never take the time to even analyze how they assent to any truth, so for most the simple fact of accepting it because it is the teaching of the Church is sufficient. If they knew the distinctions, however, they could not deny that it was of Faith.

(06-09-2019, 12:43 AM)Athens Wrote: [ -> ]#3. If there are still eastern patriarchs, in what sense does the Pope have (and exercise) papal authority over the east?  It is my understanding that the union between Rome and the Eastern churches is an attempt to live like the Church lived during the first millennium of Church history. Is this true? Thanks.

The Pope is ultimately Patriarch of the West, but also the Vicar of Christ, so ultimately the head of those Churches as well. The Patriarch serves as the Vicar of the Pope, as it were in those Churches. Ideally, the Pope would have little direct influence, just as the Pope typically has little direct influence over the affairs within a diocese.

Much could be said, but Catholics treat the Eastern Churches as sui juris (according to their own law) and generally interference beyond the necessities is avoided. The Pope, however, is the supreme legislator, so for instance, gave a Code of Canon Law to all Eastern Catholic Churches as that legislator, but allowing each separate Church to then add its own customary law to this.
Yablabo, thanks for the reply.             1. I can appreciate the fact that these dogmas are defined ex cathedra (although I may return to that topic later), but my question is why did it have to be defined ex cathedra (thus made into dogma) when the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary has nothing to do with our salvation. What we believe about there being one God or Jesus being the Godman or Mary being called Theotokos (since it confirms the Incarnation) or even icons all have to do with what we believe about God and so is essential to our salvation. But the Immaculate Conception is just about Mary herself, so I fail to see why it should be considered dogma. I still am not quite sure why the Pope is considered the successor of Peter. In Orthodoxy all the bishops are considered the successors of Peter (even though they too consider the Pope to be Peter's successor "in a special sense," to quote Met. Kallistos Ware).                                                                                                  2. I heard one Eastern Catholic priest say that Eastern Catholic Christians, when confronted with Papal doctrines "can't say that it's wrong or heretical." But they can say things like "that's not part of our patrimony" or we use different theological language to get at the same truth. What I get from that is a bit of a neutral attitude toward Papal dogmas. Is this permissible?                                                        3.That was a novelty that came to the forefront at around 1054? May I ask for some sources, because the Orthodox say exactly the opposite. Thanks.
MagisterMusicae, thanks for the reply.                                                                                                                1. What do you mean by Original Sin? Sin that Adam committed and that we are guilty of because of him? Its often said in Orthodox circles that if we had that concept of Original Sin, then the Immaculate Conception would make sense.                                                                        2. "Full of Grace" means sinless?                                                       3. Orthodox believe that Mary has no personal sins. But it's common to hear this objection to the Immaculate Conception in the Orthodox Church: It lifts Mary above the human race rather than allows her to be a part of it. Therefore, since Christ is born from her, it would make of him something that's not totally human. What would you say to that? Thanks.
(06-09-2019, 02:32 AM)Athens Wrote: [ -> ]I can appreciate the fact that these dogmas are defined ex cathedra (although I may return to that topic later), but my question is why did it have to be defined ex cathedra (thus made into dogma) when the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary has nothing to do with our salvation. What we believe about there being one God or Jesus being the Godman or Mary being called Theotokos (since it confirms the Incarnation) or even icons all have to do with what we believe about God and so is essential to our salvation. But the Immaculate Conception is just about Mary herself, so I fail to see why it should be considered dogma. I still am not quite sure why the Pope is considered the successor of Peter. In Orthodoxy all the bishops are considered the successors of Peter (even though they too consider the Pope to be Peter's successor "in a special sense," to quote Met. Kallistos Ware).

Often it is when a heresy or error arises that the Popes consider making clear definitions of Catholic teaching or defining dogmas. Oftentimes this take a while.

The case with the Immaculate Conception seems to involve the error of Bajus who asserted that the Blessed Virgin Mary was subject to Original Sin, and this was condemned by Pope St Pius V. The Council of Trent also spoke on this subject. And it took a few hundred years of growing interest in the subject and many theological studies and commissions about whether the matter was able to be defined, or if it were as you suggested early possibly just a theological certainty or theologoumenon.

Eventually those commissions resolved that it could be derived from revealed principles, and thus the definition could be made.

The dogma, however, is not about Mary alone, but also about how the merits of Jesus Christ are applied to souls. God gave this grace that could only be merited by Christ, to the Blessed Virgin in view of His Incarnation, and thus in view of our Salvation. The purpose of the Immaculate Conception was to prepare Our Lady for the Divine Motherhood, by which she participates in our redemption.

As regards the successors of Peter, that idea that all are successors of Peter makes no sense. Clearly, bishops are successors of the Apostles in their role as bishops (and not their special role as co-founders of the Church as Apostles). And this does not match what the Orthodox believe, at least as I understand it.

The Patriarch of Constantinople considers himself the successor to St Andrew, so the churches under his Patriarchate have St Andrew as their founder. The Patriarch of Alexandria considers himself successor to St Mark. The Patriarch of Jerusalem is considered to be the successor of St James.

St Peter founded two Sees one at Antioch, and one at Rome, but the final See was the Roman one, and thus the Pope considers himself the successor of St Peter.

Because St Peter was given a primacy over the others, thus the Pope has a headship over the other churches, or at least that is the Catholic understanding. Since Peter only founded these two sees, in reality only those who hold those two sees are in any way "successors" to St Peter. Since only one can claim that primacy, it is given to the last one that He founded.
(06-09-2019, 02:59 AM)Athens Wrote: [ -> ]What do you mean by Original Sin? Sin that Adam committed and that we are guilty of because of him? Its often said in Orthodox circles that if we had that concept of Original Sin, then the Immaculate Conception would make sense.

Yes. "Original Sin" can refer to both the Sin of Adam, but also the effects in his descendants. This would be the loss of Sanctifying Grace and the other Præternatural Gifts (immortality, impassibility), as well as a hereditary wounding to our nature which includes a four-fold defect in us : (1) the blindness of our Intellect, (2) the malice in our will, (3) the weakness in our irascible passions, (4) concupiscence which makes us drawn inordinately towards pleasure.

(06-09-2019, 02:59 AM)Athens Wrote: [ -> ]"Full of Grace" means sinless?

Yes.

Sanctifying Grace is incompatible with sin, thus one who is in Grace is without sin. This is the Catholic notion of how sins are forgiven. God infuses Grace into a soul which pushes out the sin, since they cannot both exist together.

One who is "full" of this grace (at least as full as one could be at the point) would not only have no sin, but also not have any tendency towards sin. If no tendency towards sin, then no wounds from Original Sin, and thus Immaculately Conceived.

(06-09-2019, 02:59 AM)Athens Wrote: [ -> ]Orthodox believe that Mary has no personal sins. But it's common to hear this objection to the Immaculate Conception in the Orthodox Church: It lifts Mary above the human race rather than allows her to be a part of it. Therefore, since Christ is born from her, it would make of him something that's not totally human. What would you say to that? Thanks.

Catholics also assert no personal sins.

Mary shares our human nature, but was given a special exception or privilege which preserved her from contracting that stain of Original Sin. She's not only totally human, but a perfect human without the defects that the rest of us have. Christ then has a fitting dwelling place in her womb, because it would have been unfitting that the Man-God would dwell in a temple that was even for a moment stained by something which was offensive to Him.

So if Mary then is a perfect human, so is Christ. Both are sinless, but truly human.

This also connects with the idea in Catholicism of Christ and Mary being the New Adam and the new Eve (obviously not in married sense), because each like the first Adam and Eve before the Fall were sinless and without Original Sin, but were also perfectly and truly human.
In the little I have been able to learn about Eastern and Western ways of viewing things, one that I see is the view of what Grace is. In our Catholic Church I often hear talk of doing things to get graces, and even as far as someone saying we have earned graces.

The West often makes it sound as grace is a thing or a commodity, like spiritual currency. In the East grace seems more understood as a state of being than a thing you get.
Hi Athens!  Which Melkite church do you live nearby?  Are you currently Antiochian Orthodox?
(06-09-2019, 07:35 AM)Markie Boy Wrote: [ -> ]In the little I have been able to learn about Eastern and Western ways of viewing things, one that I see is the view of what Grace is.  In our Catholic Church I often hear talk of doing things to get graces, and even as far as someone saying we have earned graces.  

The West often makes it sound as grace is a thing or a commodity, like spiritual currency.  In the East grace seems more understood as a state of being than a thing you get.

Grace is both.

Sanctifying Grace, called also First Grace, or Habitual Grace is a "state of being". It is the grace that one receives from God and is the principle (or source) of all merit. When one acts well, with a supernatural intention, and in the State of Grace, one merits because the action is still his own, but it is an action do in cooperation with grace which comes from Jesus Christ (so shares in His merits).

One cannot do anything to obtain this State of Grace, because if one were to merit to receive a grace, he would first have to be in the State of Grace. So God freely gives this, and when we lose it by grave sin, he has to restore it first by giving us an actual grace so we can be contrite and then when we express this contrition and are absolved, He restores that State of Grace.

Add to this habit or state, and we have additional actual graces, which move us to act well in particular ways. These do not require the State of Grace, and God must give these first to prepare souls for the State of Grace. Once in the State of Grace, God gives these graces to impel us towards good actions, and when we do good, we become deserving of additional graces.
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