14 comments

  1. I have long stopped caring regarding which side of the Great Divide my friends and others choose. I have long thought that both sides, Orthodox and Catholic, inhere at the center of Christ’s Church. The besetting problems of both sides are that, on one, it is the right faith given to the wrong people; on the other, it is the right faith taught by the wrong clergy.

    That said, I have been in the middle, largely hated by both sides. For almost thirty years, I have been looked down upon by the East as a dirty little uniate. And, the full spectrum of the West, from Trad to Mod, has generally and often quite vocally looked down upon me as not quite ‘theirs’. Sigh.

    I have found most of the liturgies from the full spectrum of the West to be unremittingly ill informed and bleak, with the exception of a handful, which include the Vatican (under Benedict) and a little Dominican parish in Seattle, Washington. On the other hand, I am at home at most Orthodox parishes, and have standing offers from five choirs to join them, should I ‘come to my senses’. It would take me a month or two to become comfortable in a Slavic speaking church, and perhaps a year or two for a Greek speaking church.

    But I can’t yet bring myself to stand before an Orthodox priest and say, before God and everybody, that I renounce the teachings of the Pope of Rome. On the whole, I think they have been rather good. I also happen to think that if we are going to be following all the canons of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, we should include the one about giving Rome the primacy of honor. Or the one saying that there should be only one bishop to a city. Just sayin’…

    And finally, I was baptised and chrysmated as a Roman Catholic. Although I feel that the West has abandoned me, or at least, anything beautiful or true or wise in the Faith, I still am its abandoned child. I am fortunate to be at an Eastern Catholic Church that has all of those things. I suppose that if I were forced to leave it, or if I found that the West had well and truly lost the Faith (which some of the darker sayings attributed to our Blessed Lady have put it), then I would have to march to the other side. But not now. Not yet.

  2. Many thanks for this excellent post, Gabriel. All of your stuff is good but this is one of the very best and expresses my own thoughts (while you have more knowledge of the situation in the Greek Catholic and Orthodox worlds, for sure) pretty much exactly. I also very much appreciate Bernard’s reflections; as a Latin who is pretty much a Greek Catholic wannabe (the pastor of our local Ruthenian church does not seem to want me to transfer over–I guess he can read my mind and soul too well) I find great solace in the timelessness of Greek Catholic liturgy, spirituality and theology. I especially value Patriarch SVIATOSLAV’s statement that the UGCC is an Orthodox church living Orthodoxy as in the first millennium, in communion with Rome. It seems to me that this validates all of the Orthodox classic literature (with the exception of anti-papal polemics) and so opens up great vistas of serene writing and contemplation. Keep up all the good work, you guys.

  3. Gabriel you stated that: “I should note here that it appears that all of the Eastern Catholic churches, by and large, have more doctrinally sound bishops, priests, and laity than contemporary Latin Catholicism does.” This has been my experience as well.In your opinion how much if this is tied to the retention of traditional liturgies by most, not all, Eastern Catholic communities? That we believe as we pray.

    My own thought is that the banality of most modern Latin Catholic theology and confusion are a simple reflection of the banality of the novus ordo. I do know that there are some places, I have yet to actually see one, that has attempted to celebrate the novus ordo with a certain amount of dignity, but personally, I think that the novus ordo’s problems are systemic to the whole concept that tradition can simply be invented by committee. That in the end, tarting up the novus ordo will still not result in a Catholic liturgical expression; the issues is the rite itself.

  4. If the sum total of what Catholics are required to believe was expressed in their communal prayers, the only profession with which Orthodox would take issue would still be perhaps only the filioque. Otherwise, what is objectionable from a “it’s not heretical” approach? Banality and mushiness are not ideal, but are they heretical?

    Further, just how much are Orthodox required to believe that is not to be found in their communal prayer? And is there anything in Orthodox communal prayer which Catholics find objectionable?

    Perhaps “as we pray, so we believe” means, “if you want to know what we believe, just hear what we pray.” For if we are to insist that the deposit of faith lies IN ANY WAY outside of communal prayer, do we not then create a gap between those with greater literacy and access to info, and those with less? And if that is the case, isn’t that gnostic in some way?

    1. Stephen, it is here as well that I would disagree: “Banality and mushiness are not ideal, but are they heretical?” I would venture to say that if it is not heretical, it is at least lacking in faith. If we truly believe that the offering of the Mass is indeed a reenactment of the very same Sacrifice that Our Lord made on Calvary and his very Body and Blood are present on the altar then banality and mushiness and the whole concept of making this Sacrifice into nothing more than an individual priest’s moment of being the center of attention, if it does not actually border on heretical, it does question the belief of the celebrant and those who participate.

      It certainly questions the belief in the Mass as a Sacrifice and the Real Presence, and could well be interpreted as heretical.

  5. As a Catholic (I happen to be a Roman Rite Latin Catholic, and proud, but what’s important, of course, is not my rite but my Church and its doctrine), I must take issue with your claim that the Eastern Orthodox are more doctrinally sound than Catholics and that Eastern Catholics are more doctrinally sound than Latin Catholics. Certainly it’s not doctrinally sound to deny the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and Son as from one source, or to deny that in the Godhead all is one except where there is an opposition of relations, or to deny the divine origin and real primatial power of the papacy or the immaculate conception or purgatory, etc. All of these are Catholic dogmata which have been defined by either an ecumenical council or a pope acting in his power as universal pastor and supreme head of the Church. And yet all or some of these dogmata are denied by the Orthodox and even by many Eastern Catholics, specially those who prefer to call themselves Orthodox in communion with Rome and who insist that their theology is identical to that of the Eastern Orthodox.

    1. I think you misunderstood me. I believe the Catholic Church holds the deposit of Faith in full. My point was empirical, namely that you are likely to find more Orthodox and Eastern Catholics who hold to more of that deposit than the average Latin Catholic. I would say this is particularly true when it comes to the clergy.

      1. Good grief. There are 1.4 BILLION of us. In America alone, there are 70 million — as opposed to what? Maybe a million Eastern Orthodox? It’s easy to be “doctrinally pure” when your numbers are relatively small, and your parishes are minuscule. Just ask those purist Calvinists.

        It’s easy to be “pure”
        When your church consists of four,
        And one of them’s your priest,
        And two others are deceased.

        It’s easy to be “pure”
        When your church is quite obscure
        And insular and clannish,
        And no one there speaks Spanish.

        It’s easy to be “pure” —
        But you’d best make extra-sure.
        So, here’s what you should do:
        Start a church confined to YOU.

        — “Don’t pinch it; it’s copyright.” – Psmith in Leave It to Psmith

        Sincerely,

        Diane, proud member of a typical and *wonderful* non-ultra-trad and doctrinally solid Catholic parish in one of America’s fastest growing dioceses

        1. That doesn’t follow. In the past, America had a much more “doctrinally pure” Church than nowadays, where the average Catholic doesn’t go to Sunday Mass, believes homosexuality and other aberrations “normal.” This argument is a non sequitur!

        2. I don’t mind being in a “minuscule” Orthodox parish of around 200. We have two married priests, too. Most Orthodox parishes do the same. Sometimes three priests. Contrast that with St. Michael’s Catholic parish in Olympia, WA: 6500 parishoners/2300 families and *one* full time priest, one visitor. Our Lady Star of the Sea in Bremerton, 1300 families, one priest. Sorry, I don’t call that shepherding. Just herding. Even if the big theological question of whether there is one Bishop of Earth or not was solved, Catholics would still have to get to the point where they think married men can be ordained in order to have anything I can call actual communities. The position of the Orthodox is that both these things have been solved for 2000 years in the Eastern Churches. There have been married clergy for 2000 years, ever since St. Peter had a mother in law. The understanding that a bishop is a bishop is a bishop is also. The Orthodox suggest the Catholics can’t criticize the Orthodox because we are your past. There is currently a controversy among western Christians that seems to generate a lot of distress, simply to have the celebrant face the same direction as the people do in the Eucharist. Another non issue in the East for 2000 years. We suffer from flaky bishops too. If both Catholic and Orthodox bishops would be more serious with public apostasy by public officials it would be refreshing. Calvinism is a defined heresy as far as I know, I hope I’m not suffering from that as I do other things.

    2. “in the Godhead all is one except where there is an opposition of relations”

      Not everything Thomistic is Catholic dogma. Scotus, for instance, thought there were formal distinctions outside of the Trinity. Further, no Catholic council, I believe, ever explicitly stated what was meant by divine simplicity.

      Even if I’m wrong about that, a general point remains. If reunion is what is desired, Thomists need to stop acting as if all other systems are heterodox (including Scotism and Palamism). A major problem at Florence was doctrinaire Thomists (e.g., Juan de Torquemada) who tried to force their system on the Greeks as if it was Catholic dogma (which included rejection of the Immaculate Conception). Orthodox stubbornness wasn’t the only thing causing the schism. I think Fr. Christiaan Kappes and certain Scotist bloggers (e.g., The Smithy) have done a good job of demonstrating these points.

  6. I would like to call into question the oft-cited but rarely-supported notion that “if a couple doesn’t care for what Fr. Barsanuphius has to say about the pill and rubbers, Fr. Panteleimon down the street can put their consciences at ease.”

    Although there is more _room_ for flexibility on contraceptives in the Orthodox churches, I think you will find that there is in fact (ironically) much less actual diversity of belief on this issue in Orthodoxy than in Catholicism.

    For example, I can name five or six Catholic priests off the top of my head who are “down the street” from each other here in DC who hold dissenting positions on contraceptive.

    Conversely, of the twenty or so Orthodox priests I know in the city, only one (a Greek) views contraceptive as a perfectly acceptable aspect of modern life.

    I do understand that the Catholic priests I mention are out-of-step with official Vatican teaching, whereas the same could not be said about Orthodoxy, but I also think it’s only fair to present the issue as it really stands de facto.

    One could also mention the practice of Catholic laypeople as regards contraceptive, with 2% following Church teaching according to the Guttmacher institute.

    You could also cite the recently-released statistic of only 33% of Orthodox teens who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. (Just trying to be fair to both sides here). I wonder how many teens who identify themselves as “Catholic” support gay marriage?

    I’m complicating this question of “orthopraxis” to be fair, because it’s a complicated issue.

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