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"Ecumenical Follies" Update

American Bishop Blasts Romanian Orthodox Church

by Christopher A. Ferrara

In a previous column I noted that Romanian Catholics are fed up with "ecumenical dialogue" with the Romanian Orthodox Church and have sued for the return of their parish properties, confiscated at gun-point during the Stalin era. Now an American bishop has joined their cause - not a bishop of the scandal-ridden Roman Rite in North America, which is generally spineless, but rather an American bishop of the Romanian Catholic Church.

The Bishop in question is John Botean, who is described by Catholic News Service as "the spiritual leader of Byzantine-rite Romanian Catholics living in the United States." According to a CNS report of April 2, 2002, Botean "has issued a strong public protest of the ‘terrible miscarriage of justice now taking place in Romania.’" Botean is referring to "the failure of the Romanian Orthodox Church to return properties that had been confiscated from Romanian Catholics by the country’s Communist regime."

CNS notes that "disputes about confiscated church properties in Romania have been referred to a joint committee, composed of Orthodox and Catholic representatives. But the committee’s deliberations have produced virtually no results, drawing repeated protests from the Romanian Catholic hierarchy. Bishop Botean’s statement was evidently an effort to raise consciousness of the problem among Catholics outside Romania."

Botean rightly complains that "the Romanian government has cooperated with the designs of the Orthodox Church to forestall any transfer of church property" and he just as rightly ridiculed "the glacial pace of the interconfessional dialogues." Bishop Botean concluded that "neither charity nor justice are at play here." In fact, says Botean, the dialogue committee is nothing but "a tool of dissimulation, redolent of the Ceausescu era, put forth for consumption by the West, while in reality the mechanisms of the state and of the judicial system are manipulated in order to maintain the status quo and to preserve the privileges of one group at the expense of the others."

Here we have yet another object lesson in the utter futility of "ecumenical dialogue", which in practice does nothing but serve the interests of the Church’s innumerable enemies. Bishop Botean - and God bless him for this - has had the courage to reverse his thinking on "ecumenical dialogue" with the intransigent Romanian Orthodox Church. As CNS reports: "[Botean] - whose diocese is centered in Canton, Ohio - wrote that he had originally given his full support to the joint committee, which was set up with the backing of Pope John Paul II and the Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Teoctist. However, he said, the paltry results of the dialogue show the need for more effective action."

Whether Bishop Botean knows it or not, his assessment, mutatis mutandi, also applies to "ecumenical dialogue" throughout the world. For in case anyone hasn’t noticed, the results of "ecumenical dialogue" have been just as a paltry everywhere else this useless activity has taken root in the Catholic Church.