The very first pre-requisite for dialogue with Orthodox Christians is to accept that the differences between us are at root theological. Yes, theological. And they are genuine, authentic, theological differences, and they are grave. You need to take that seriously if we are to get anywhere in dialogue.
It is neither accurate nor charitable to tell us the separation between us is because we Orthodox Christians are simply unforgiving, as in this remark:
I will never quite grasp the animus of the Orthodox attitude towards the Catholic Church. I know that many (and in fact most) regard Western Christianity as unorthodox, but I rather suspect that this is an historical grievance looking for a doctrinal excuse.At least such a dismissive remark does acknowledge that there are grievances -- conveniently relegating them to history, however, and ignoring the current and continuing grievances.
But historically, we made the doctrinal issues clear three hundred years before the first significant grievance, the sacking of Constantinople in 1204 by Catholic Crusaders.
Nor does it further the cause of Christian unity to tell us our differences are merely products of our proud imagination. Do not, for example, say this:
My contention would be that the Orthodox are simply creating doctrinal errors that don’t exist. On any of the issues you cite … the “difference” comes about because of exaggerated Orthodox insistence that there must be a fundamental difference. We, on the other hand, see that the Eastern and Western theologies are compatible rather than contradictory. Because the doctrines that the East denies are not those which the West teaches, but those which they imagine we teach.Who has created anything? Our doctrine is the same as it has ever been, from centuries before the split. You are the ones who believe in "doctrinal development".
But if you think Catholic and Orthodox teachings all mean the same thing, then say it the Orthodox way and put an end to the controversy. If you mean the same thing by the filioque as we mean without it, then say the Creed without it; as it's all the same, you've nothing to lose and much to gain. You could have done this a thousand years ago and ended or prevented all these centuries of bitter controversy, but you haven't and that tells us there is some meaning in the filioque more important to Catholics than union with the Orthodox. In other words, there's a real difference, a substantial one.
It would also be prudent, as well as more charitable, not to tell us the corollary to this insult, which is that we are ignorant:
the disagreements have arisen as a result of linguistic and cultural isolation rather than authentic disagreement on the heart of the faith.Upon what basis does this opinion rest?
And please, do not tell us you know and understand the Orthodox Christian faith better than the Orthodox do:
...the Protestant rejections really do amount to a disagreement, because they reject them in the context of a shared Western Church view ... Thus the Protestants really DO reject these doctrines, but we Catholics see these very doctrines as implicit within the Orthodox Faith as well as our own.Take the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, for example. It is not implicit in the Orthodox Faith; instead, it is predicated upon the Catholic doctrine of Original Sin, which is not the same as the Orthodox doctrine of the Ancestral Sin. (The former has guilt and accountability for it being inherited by all of Adam's descendants.) In fact, the Immaculate Conception, far from being implicit in our Faith, actually undermines it, for Orthodox Christianity teaches that Christ healed fallen human nature by assuming it. By assuming fallen human nature - inherited from whom? from His mother - and uniting it to the Divine Nature, thereby purifying, sanctifying , re-creating that fallen human nature, without any compromise to the Divine.
I found all four of these dismissive insults on one blog, by one author, in regard to one post. But I have also found them in virtually every discussion with Catholics.
Unfortunately, the reality is that the gap between us is theological. It is not the result of animus or imagination or ignorance or misunderstanding. It is theological and very real. And it is both deep and wide. Facing this gap, acknowledging it for what it is, will be the first step toward bridging it.
But if all you are going to do is cast aspersions, well, don't expect not to create "animus"..