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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 24 Mar 2002

The Balamand Delclaration QUESTION from Campbell November 26, 1999 Please tell me what you can about this declaration. What I have heard, admittedly from an ultra-conservative group, is that this statement consisted of a statement which placed the Catholic and Orthodox Churches on an equal level, and an agreement on the parts of both parties to make no attempts to evangelize one another in each other's territories. This seems to me to be so beyond the scope of Catholic orthodoxy as to be out of the question-a statement, in effect, which seems to deny the Pope's universal authority over the Christian faith. The contention is that it was signed by Vatican representatives, which idea seems untenable to me. However, I have found that in most cases the best weapon of defense is the truth of the matter, and I have also found this forum to be a reliable source of information with regard to Catholic faith and policy. God bless you for your work. It is good to hear a voice for Catholic Orthodoxy which does not insist on return to all pre-concilliar practices.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius on December 1, 1999 Dear Mr. Campbell:
Thanks for your support of our apostolate. Yes, we are orthodox AND loyal AND obedient to the Pope and the magisterium in union with him. Both the so-called left and right are not. Both determine for themselves their own definitions of orthodoxy. Only the Church can make such a definition. When we make up our own definitions we have departed from communion with the Church.
I will be writing a major paper on this issue of liberalism and neo-orthodoxy and ultra-orthodoxy that has developed in our culture -- a development of a McCarthy-ite style Pharisaism. You will be surprised who has been caught up in this.
But on to your question….
I have not read this declaration and know nothing about it. When Bro. Curley gets back from vacation he might know how to answer your question more specifically. I will ask him.
But on a general basis, let me offer a few rules of thumb to consider when confronted with information about what the church allegedly has done.
NEVER listen to an ultra-orthodox (conservative) or liberal (progressive) interpretation of the information, and be very cautious of the neo-orthodox interpretations. These groups have their own agendas and their own worldviews that are not consistent with the Catholic Church. Thus their interpretations are tainted from the get-go.

Ascertain if the document in question is an official document from a person or group with legislative authority. Opinions made by advisory boards (even of Cardinals) is meaningless. The issue is whether the document is an official church document promulgated with authority and that is binding in some way upon the faithful, or some portion of the faithful in which the document applies.

Read the actual document itself rather than relying upon other people’s paraphrase of the document.

Seek to find any official interpretations the Curia may have made about the document – such as an official statement of interpretation from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or the Congregation for Sacred Liturgy, or whatever Curial office is applicable.

Ask people you know and trust to be uncompromising loyal and OBEDIENT to the Church for their opinion of the document’s meaning. But always remember that the Church is the official interpreter of its own documents. Perhaps these people will be knowledgeable of published official interpretations.

Remember that the only unchangeable teachings of the Church are dogma and definitive teachings. All else may be changed, altered, modified, or revoked as the wisdom of the Church determines.

Remember that as an orthodox, loyal, and obedient son of the Church we are to respectfully accept and obey all decisions of the Church even if they are not infallible and even if we don’t agree. We can express our disagreement on those issues where disagreement is allowed, but ONLY with respect and with a spirit of humility of obedience.

Trust the Holy See to do the right thing. Trust that the Holy See knows what it is doing. Giving this trust to the Holy See does not mean that a mistake cannot be made by the church in some of its decisions, but our general presumption should be that the Holy See, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, is doing the will of God.

When we find ourselves thinking that the Holy See is doing something out of line with Catholicism, automatically presume that WE do not have correct information, or that we do not have a proper understanding with what the Holy See is doing, or we are being scrupulous to non-essential issues (non dogmatic/definitive) and need to realize that the Church can do what it is doing and trust that the Holy Spirit will watch over the Church.

Have faith. Jesus said that the gates of hell will NOT prevail against the Church. Jesus is not a lair.

Be not afraid.

After all this, if we still don’t understand the decision made or action taken by the Church, then give it to God and let it go. Our Lord does understand.
If we use these guidelines, we can take comfort that our Supreme Pastor is at the wheel and we can leave him to the driving. He knows where he is going.
God Bless.
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