Personally, I think that we have, in recent decades, moved further from Orthodoxy in some regards but closer in other regards.
I think it has to do with the recent interest in tradition. This works both ways. Returning to more traditional forms of liturgy, fasting, prayer, etc certainly does bring us closer together. Then again, it brings with it a strengthening in the parts of your tradition that divide us - papal infallibility, universal jurisdiction, etc.
Well that's true too. But when I spoke of "in recent decades", I was thinking of how Vatican II moved us (Catholics) further from Orthodoxy in some regards but closer in others.
Vatican II certainly moved me closer to Eastern Orthodoxy , but I am wondering what you have in mind, when you say that Vatican II has moved the Catholic Church closer to Orthodoxy? In any case, here is my list of five straightforward actions the Pope could take to unilaterally, but decisively, accelerate rapprochement with the Orthodox:
1. Repudiate the use of the filioque (if not the doctrine) and remove it from the liturgical books
2. Adopt the Orthodox Paschalion
3. Restore the married priesthood in the Western Rite
4. Restore the Eastward position in the Mass
5. Restore the ancient fasting disciplines for Wednesdays, Fridays, in Lent and on Ember days, and before Holy Communion.
I'm not holding my breath. I realize that these recommendations are largely disciplinary in nature, rather than doctrinal,
You needn't apologize for that. The fact that your suggestions are disciplinary in nature, rather than doctrinal, makes it possible that they will be fulfilled.
No. 1 is not disciplinary.
No. 3 has been ruled out for the long term, primarily because of the long standing tradition in the west.
Again if we are to argue for the traditions of the east, then we must allow the traditions of the west to bind as well.
No. 2 is something that Pope Benedict has already whispered and with which I agree totally!! My fellow Catholics rise up in righteous wroth...but who cares about that!!
No. 4 is not going to change readily in the Roman ordinary but there will be a tendency toward accommodating both till one either fades or becomes part of tradition.
In the case of No. 4 I think it would be very useful to suggest that seminary training be unwaveringly clear that the orientation of the priest toward the people is still an act directed toward God and custody of the eyes and attention are necessary at all time. Trust me when I say that the people can tell the difference in focus!!
No. 5 is essential!!
As I said in my earlier post, I am not holding my breath that Pope Benedict will do any of these things - it is just a list of five actions he could
take (they are all within his power to do unilaterally, if I am not mistaken) that, if he did them all
, really might convince many Orthodox that there is hope for reunion, after all. Not doing any one of them reduces that longed-for effect correspondingly. To address ElijahMaria's comments specifically:
No. 1, as far as I understand it, is not a huge issue for Roman Catholics, but it is the biggest formal issue that divides our two Churches, still, for Eastern Orthodox - bigger even than the Roman conception of the role of the Papacy. I see no chance of reunion, while the actual use of the filioque is still permitted.
As for no. 2, how can the Churches reunite and not celebrate Easter on the same date, but not to use the Orthodox paschalion would certainly create a huge new schism in Orthodoxy, so what good is that?
Regarding issue No. 3, I realize that Roman Catholic apologists for this discipline peculiar the Roman patriarchate (now abolished, for reasons which are not obvious to me, especially in the context we are now discussing) trot out a long history [ignoring Cardinal Wolsey and the Borgias] and consider it taboo. We see what that has come to in recent years. So, I think St. Paphnutius of Thebes was right to dissuade the fathers of the First Ecumenical Council from making clerical celibacy a requirement for ordination:
"While [the bishops at Nicaea] were deliberating about this, some thought that a law ought to be passed enacting that bishops and presbyters, deacons and subdeacons, should hold no intercourse with the wife they had espoused before they entered the priesthood; but Paphnutius, the confessor, stood up and testified against this proposition; he said that marriage was honorable and chaste, and that cohabitation with their own wives was chastity, and advised the Synod not to frame such a law, for it would be difficult to bear, and might serve as an occasion of incontinence to them and their wives; and he reminded them, that according to the ancient tradition of the church, those who were unmarried when they took part in the communion of sacred orders, were required to remain so, but that those who were married, were not to put away their wives. Such was the advice of Paphnutius, although he was himself unmarried, and in accordance with it, the Synod concurred in his counsel, enacted no law about it, but left the matter to the decision of individual judgment, and not to compulsion [The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen
, quoted from Wikipedia]."
Today, many Roman Catholic clergy are ashamed even to wear their clericals in public, and the shortage of priests is dire. The restoration of a married clergy would go a long way to repair the damage done by the recent clerical sexual abuse scandals, and open up the priesthood to many qualified married candidates. The celibate priesthood would continue of course, but those priests would not live alone, but only in monasteries or (as in the Middle Ages) as secular canons in communities in the larger parishes and cathedrals, where there is someone in authority over them who knows what they are doing and whether they come home at night. I think it is now unquestionably clear that St. Paphnutius' common-sense advice is the wiser path.
I don't have much patience for 'facing the people' apologetics, either. Facing east to pray is a practice that goes back at least to the Old Testament, which is why church buildings themselves have historically been 'oriented' and people are buried (or used to be until recently) with their feet to the east. The Vatican change, which has spread like kudzu among Anglicans and others, amounts to liturgical wrecking at its most fundamental, because it is a blatant disruption of the age-old Judeo-Christian prayer tradition.
Well, all this is hypothetical. To return to the topic, "Reform of the Reform" - traditional-minded Catholics long for the old piety, and watch hopefully for any crumb that may come their way. God bless them, and I don't see why the Pope couldn't take a cue from the Byzantine Rite and either make the old rite equal with the new (as in the Old Rite-New Rite in the Russian Orthodox Church) or, perhaps, take a cue from the Byzantine Rite and order use of the Tridentine on certain days (as with the Liturgy of St. Basil), such as the feasts of some of the more ultramontane saints, or feastdays like the Sacred Heart or the Immaculate Conception, that are especially associated with the post-Tridentine period. That is, no doubt, as wishful as any of the other points discussed in this note, but a genuine effort to restore the 'old piety' on both sides (understood as the authentic tradition of the Church) is the best hope for Orthodox-Catholic reunion.