Two fresh items on Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy recently caught my eye, so I thought I might call attention to them both.
The first, Fr. Mark Drew’s Catholic Herald article “What Catholics Can Learn From Orthodox Synods,” covers in detail a topic I dealt with in Crisis last year, namely synodality. Fr. Drew is less skeptical toward the synodal model than I, though my position on the matter has softened due to current events. Some disparage the Orthodox synodal model as too decentralized, limited in scope, and ineffective. However, in the light of ongoing Extraordinary Synod on the Family in Rome, there are no doubt more than a few Catholics praying for a muted outcome to the proceedings. Where I disagree with Fr. Drew is how much Orthodoxy—or, for that matter, Catholicism—really needs centralization, at least in its current Roman manifestation. It is far from clear that Pope Francis truly believes in synodality, and his role as the guardian of the Faith has come under scrutiny in light of numerous statements (some, admittedly, off-the-cuff) which seem freighted with doctrinal confusion. Moreover, given the vast number of bishops in the Roman Church who routinely fail to uphold the Church’s indefectible teachings, providing them with greater doctrinal authority would be highly imprudent at this juncture. Of course, the Orthodox have largely left doctrine alone for the past millennium, which has not been an entirely bad thing at all.
Second, my friend Elliot Milco has written a thoughtful reply to my recent tweet asking why Catholics choose not to convert to Eastern Orthodoxy. I should note that the point of my tweet was not to challenge Catholics on this, but rather to gain a better understanding of the matter. Not too long ago many Catholics I knew who had seriously contemplated Orthodoxy claimed that the absence of a central authority figure (the pope) and Orthodoxy’s approach to remarriage compelled them not to leave. Now, however, Pope Francis has cleared the way for what some are calling “Catholic divorce” with a process which appears to be less exacting than what certain Orthodox jurisdictions follow when granting marriage dissolutions. As for the papacy, it’s hardly breaking news to point out that many conservative and traditional Catholics are less than thrilled with Francis’s pontificate and the new style of Ultramontanism which accompanies it. Milco addresses these matters and more, and I thank him for taking the time to do so.