Occasionally I grow curious enough to explore WordPress’s Site Stats feature which, among other things, alerts me to some of the search terms people use to find this web-log. Recently there has been a string of hits involving Eastern Orthodoxy and traditional Catholicism, such as “sspx russian orthodox,” “traditionalist catholic views of the orthodox,” and “traditional eastern catholics.” The only reason Opus Publicum pops up in these searches is likely because I am one of the few bloggers who writes on both Orthodoxy and traditional Catholicism, not because I have any great insight into the mind of traditionalism when it comes to the Christian East. The few forays I have made into this territory, such as those involving St. Gregory of Narek and the 21 New Coptic Martyrs of Libya, ended with some rather scornful remarks being directed my way. So it goes. The truth of the matter is that most traditional Catholics, like most Catholics in general, know very little about the Christian East, including the sui iuris churches in communion with Rome. As I have noted in other articles and posts before, this is unfortunate because it contributes to needless theological, spiritual, and liturgical myopia on the part of traditionalists. This is not to say that traditional Roman Catholics ought to “easternize” (Heaven forbid). However, the traditional movement, to the extent it wishes to be a movement for the betterment of the universal Church while being an authentic reflection of the full Catholic tradition, cannot exist in ignorance of the East, or so I would think.
But I have been wrong before about such things. Not long ago I was engaged in what was initially a friendly e-mail exchange that quickly turned sour when I suggested, nay, observed that Eastern Catholics, by and large, have shown more respect for their liturgical patrimony than Roman Catholics. This gentleman—a true blue traditionalist—could not accept that the Divine Liturgy was a “true Catholic liturgy”; its existence within the Church was a “concession” that has since become “an abuse.” Indeed another traditional fellow who used to comment on this blog once went so far as to claim that none of the Eastern Catholics who arrived in North America should have been allowed to retain their rites—a claim that surely would have sat well with the late Archbishop John Ireland, the unwitting founding father of the Orthodox Church in America. Alienating the East is a time-honored tradition some folks apparently can’t let go of.