These were very happy tasks for me because this is a very splendid book by an author whose other works I have noted on here in years past as being similarly superlative. So it is with great anticipation that we can all look forward to seeing, early next year, A. Edward Siecienski's The Papacy and the Orthodox (Oxford UP, 2017), 528pp.
When I was writing my own Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy more than five years ago, I consciously chose to focus only on 20th-century sources, leaving the earlier historical work for another time. I am glad indeed that an historian of Siecienski's calibre has been able to write that book focusing, inter alia, on earlier Orthodox theologies of, and interactions with, popes and the concept of papal primacy.
This book, the publisher tells us,
examines the centuries-long debate over the primacy and authority of the Bishop of Rome, especially in relation to the Christian East, and offers a comprehensive history of the debate and its underlying theological issues.
Edward Siecienski begins by looking at the sources of the debate, objectively analyzing the history and texts that have long divided the Catholic and Orthodox world. Starting with the historical Apostle Peter and the role he played in the early church, the book turns to the biblical and patristic evidence long used in arguments for and against the Roman primacy. Siecienski details the 2000-year history of the papacy's reception--and rejection--among the Orthodox, beginning with the question that continues to bedevil ecumenists: what was the role of the Bishop of Rome during the time of the undivided church? As Rome's prestige and power grew, so too did debates over the pope's authority, its source, and its extent. The controversy became acute following the eleventh-century Gregorian Reforms and then the Fourth Crusade in the thirteenth century. Roman demands for obedience increasingly met with strident refusals from the East, where the pope's universalist claims were seen as overturning the Church's synodal structure. By the time of the First Vatican Council (1870), which defined the pope's infallibility and universal jurisdiction-doctrines the Orthodox vehemently rejected-it was already clear that the papacy, long seen by Catholics as the ministry of unity, had become the chief obstacle to it.
The final chapters cover the Second Vatican Council, recent attempts at dialogue on the issue of the primacy, and the hope that the dynamic could still shift. This book will be an invaluable resource as both Catholics and Orthodox continue to reexamine the sources and history of the debate in a new light.When it is finally in print early next year, you can be sure I shall again draw it to your attention, offer extended reflections on it, and arrange for an interview with the author. This will be a book not to be missed!