17 December 2007

I'm Just Curious - Why Are you Not Orthodox?

A cyber-friend of many years has posted in his blog a provocative question: Why are you not Catholic? He's apparently not looking to "sell" anyone on why he (a former Lutheran pastor & former Traditional Anglican priest) is now a Roman Catholic layman. He's just curious. So am I. So I read the responses.

I'm also curious why certain persons are not Orthodox. You see, when my father asked me why I was considering Orthodoxy, I gave a host of theological reasons. And when my wife and eldest daughters and various friends asked the same, I again gave a number of theological arguments. But in the end, when I finally determined that I had to become Orthodox, the reason was fairly simple.

"Because I think it's right for you," is what I told my father days after I resigned my Lutheran parish. And I said the same thing again when he (and my mother and siblings) asked again last Thanksgiving. "Because it's right for you." My dad's still a bit stumped by the answer, but it's the answer that communicates everything I think is necessary and important.

And because I think being Orthodox is right for you, I'm curious why you're not. In other words, I guess I'm asking for the obverse of the usual "journey story."

So here's the question (with apologies to "Bob Catholic"):

For those who are not a member of the Orthodox Church,
(that is Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, or generic Protestant)
what is keeping you?
What are the reasons why you are not a Orthodox?

For those who have left the Church, I'd like to hear from you as well.
Why aren't you Orthodox any longer?

Add your voice via the comments. But please, limit yourself to the question and do not degenerate into ad hominem attacks.

Like "Bob Catholic," I'll step aside and not comment on the comments.

51 comments:

Susan said...

I could give you the theological reasons, but we've already gone round and round about those. So the short easy answer? Because my pastors faithfully smash my self-righteousness, bring Jesus to me with all His grace and forgiveness, provide the sacraments, and stick to the liturgy. My pastors take care of me, and they are LCMS. No matter what I might think of the synod or transparochial fellowship or anything else like that, I simply cannot walk away from their tender care.

Pontificator said...

Really tough question, especially given my love of the Eastern tradition. I came ever so very close to becoming Orthodox.

Bottomline: I think I became Catholic and not Orthodox because it was easier for me to affirm Catholic ecclesiology, with its recognition of the Orthodox Churches as authentic particular Churches, than for me to accept the Orthodox Church that she, and she alone, is the true and exclusive Church of Jesus Christ. This probably isn't persuasive for anyone else, but it was, and is, persuasive for me.

Bob Catholic said...

I do not recall being called a cyper-friend before so I guess I better offer something. To side step the theological issue: it is outside of my life experience! I am a western Catholic in theology, method, philosophy, liturgy, culture, etc. Orthodoxy is outside of my experience. I have never been forced to look outside of my western tradition and am culturally western.

If it were to enter my experience I might need to look at it more closely but it is extremely unlikely! Yet, for me, the role of Peter is central to the nature of the Church.

eulogos said...

This is a different Susan speaking. When I became Catholic in 1972 Orthodox did not seem like a very real alternative. My choices then were between the Protestant invisible church ecclesiology, the AngloCatholic three branch theory, which I had been very seriously taught, and that the Church in communion with Rome was the One True Church. The very ecclesiology taught me by my AngloCatholic instructors convinced me that there had to be one church. Orthodoxy never presented itself to me with the claim to be that church. I knew one Orthodox convert and attended Greek Orthodox services with her once. It was all in Greek, admittedly beautiful, but not understandable to me, even though I had been studying Greek in school. There was no written liturgy to follow in the pews at all. Also, no one went to communion. Some people took babies up for communion, but no adults received. I saw it as a cultural and ethnic backwater. Also, following Newman, I saw the nature of the Church as very active, continuing to engage heresy, call councils, make proclaimations, address issues of the day. The very verbal precision of doctrine appealed to me and was perfectly in tune with the thoroughly western scholastic type education I was involved with at the time. I might also mention that I was going to a school where reality was encountered more through what we read in class and in the library, than in the world of current events. The \Church might have been going through all the post VII paroxisms, but I was hardly aware of it; I was joining the church Newman spoke of. In fact, in my mind I was joining the Church Augustine spoke of when he said, "When you go to a town, don't ask 'where is the church?', but as "where is the Catholic Church" as the conventicles of the heretics did not dare to take that name. I was lucky that my local parish at that time was Redemptorist and conservative. True, mass was in English and the altars had been turned around, but that was as far as it went. The church was always open, and always had people there praying in it. Before every mass there were confessions, and many people would be lined up; many others would be saying their penance, lighting candles. The church was full of statues of saints; they were painted in gaudy pastels and I couldn't help feeling that it was a bit declasse', but there was no doubt that it was devotional. In the back of the church where you came in from the church office (and from the large building where 12 priests and two lay brothers lived,) was a life sized, very graphic crucifix. People entering that way all toubched the crucifix, crossed themselves, some genuflected, some quickly said a "prayer to be said before a crucifix" which they had memorized. There was a heart of devotion there which I had not experienced even when I was brought to the highest of the high Anglo-Catholic parishes with the most perfect liturgies.

About two years ago my son became Orthodox. He was living in the shadow of that same Catholic parish at the time, and tried to tell me what he found at the Orthodox church that he didn't find there. He seemed to be talking about that same heart of devotion which I had found in Catholicism but he could not.

I attended Orthodox liturgy with him and was very moved, and I think moved in the same place that Catholicism initially moved me when it showed its devotional heart. To be honest, if we were not in schism from each other, at this point in my life I would attend an Orthodox parish. I have begun, for two years now, attending a Byzantine Catholic parish.

So, why not another converstion? Why not Orthodox. Well, first of all, when I became Catholic, I was desperate to know the truth, desperate to know where was Christ's church. With the intensity of youth I thought about almost nothing else for 9 months. I had left my Episcopal parish and had not made my Catholic profession of faith when I was scheduled to. I wandered in and out of the Church, praying there, praying in the attached garden. I threw myself on God's mercy, begging for an answer, for Him to tell me what to do. I felt that I received that answer and that I obeyed. No new certainty has come to me; no inspiration, no intellectual argument, with the kind of force it would take to make me believe that I was misguided back then. And here is where I am right with the Pontificator. Orthodoxy would require me to say that the Catholic church is simply, NOT the church. It is a lifeless schism, even full of heresy. Its priests might not even be priests, its sacraments are questionable or not sacraments at all. Catholicism does not require me to say this about Orthodoxy.

I simply cannot imagine myself standing up and saying that I reject and renounce the errors of Rome. I can't imagine not accepting Benedict as the legitimate successor of St. Peter and the sign of unity for the church.

I am not Orthodox because I just can't not be Catholic.
Susan Peterson

DavidD said...

Personally, I'm working at looking into Orthodoxy. If I don't convert it will only be to stay in my own tradition to draw my "family" towards Orthodoxy someday.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

Yeah, I think I'm with the pontificator here. I would love to celebrate the Eucharist in an Orthodox Church, I would love to be able to pray as Orthodox--most of the Orthodox practices I'm right on board with--but I have trouble with rejecting my churches as outside the Church.

orrologion said...

I asked Fr. Richard John Neuhaus that once and said because he believed it was necessary (important? oen should? wanted) to be in communion with the Bishop of Rome.

orrologion said...

...I have never been forced to look outside of my western tradition and am culturally western.

...I have trouble with rejecting my churches as outside the Church.


How do you all relate comments like this to the conversion of non-westerners (Asians, Africans) and non-Catholic Christians (who also believe and feel their churches to be real churches) to the Roman Catholic Church? Arguments such as these for remaining in the RCC (or any church or religion for that matter) seem to undermine the necessity of evangelizing those in other non-western cultures, other 'churches', religions, etc.

What would conversations like this have looked like in the early days of the Church as civilized Greeks, Romans and Persians were considering conversion to a 'sect' of 'backward' Judaism? what of the exclusivist teachings that led converts to deny the substance of their former faiths (whether Christian heresies and schisms or paganism)?

Chris Jones said...

Why aren't you Orthodox any longer?

This is a very difficult question without a simple answer. Even now, a dozen years on, I sometimes ask myself, "how could you ever have left?"

The simple, but misleading and ultimately false answer is that I left Orthodoxy to please my wife, who did not wish to become Orthodox. The more true answer is that I probably never should have become Orthodox in the first place, without my wife joining me; because being "one flesh" with her means that I am not bringing my whole self to the Chalice if she is not there with me.

I used to say that this was the only reason, and that there were no specifically theological reasons. And it remains true that I believe and confess all of the teachings which I received in the Orthodox Church. But I have come to realize that if there were no theological problems with Orthodoxy, I would never have been able to leave. And the theological problem is this: the Orthodox Church does not appear to me to believe her own ecclesiology. Orthodox ecclesiology is a beautiful thing: it is Biblical, it is Eucharistic, it is liturgical, it is grounded in history, it breathes the spirit of the Fathers. It's all good, and I believe it all.

But the reality on the ground is that the ecclesiology of the Orthodox Church is phyletistic. It would be understandable if any given parish might have a particular ethnic character for historical reasons, so long as Catholic unity were manifest in being under the omophorion of the one bishop of the city. But that is not how it works. Parishes are under the authority of one bishop among many in a given place (or even under a bishop in some other city entirely), depending on their cultural identity. That is phyletism.

I know my Orthodox friends believe that this is more an excuse than an actual theological reason. They will say that the unity of teaching and communion in the sacraments among the Orthodox jurisdictions is what is really important, and that jurisdictionalism, however regrettable, is only an historical hiccup, not actual phyletism. I don't agree. I could elaborate on why not, but this comment is too long already so I will just leave it at that.

Sch├╝tz said...

I've given my reasons before, but I will do so again in the simplest possible manner. I should split this into two sections: A. Why, when I left the Lutheran Church, did I not become Orthodox? B. Why, now that I am Catholic, do I not become Orthodox?

A.1. I am a westerner, not an easterner. I belong to the Latin tradition, not the Greek. When you have run away from home, you need to go back to your home, not back to someone elses!

A.2. I wanted to be Catholic. I couldn't think of any watertight definition of "Catholic" that did not include communion with the Bishop of Rome.

B.1. The Orthodox Churches simply do not exhibit that universal character which is evident in the Catholic Church. Until I read the comments on Fr Fenton's blog, I had never heard of the word "phyletism". But that sums it up. I don't want to belong to a nationalistic Church.

B.2. I value communion with the Bishop of Rome even more now than I did before. While I have every respect for the Orthodox tradition, I believe this communion to be imperitative for me (and everyone else if they realise it!).

Lvka said...

Father, with all due respect, but Your question is simply absurd: please read the last section of my comment over here. (The section beginning with "POINT A:", and ending with "Buddha").

Pastor Beisel said...

Why am I not Orthodox? I am. I'm Lutheran. I confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God, both God and Man, who suffered and died for my sins out of great love for me and for His Father, who rose from the dead on the third day "trampling down death by death" and ascending triumphantly to the right hand of His Father. I confess that the debts of all men were paid in full in Christ's death and that no "outstanding balance" remains. Divine approval has been obtained by Jesus for me and for the whole world. I confess that the same Son who assumed my nature and offered Himself to His Father as a payment for sin, now offers and reveals Himself to me in the Holy Gospel, and feeds and nourishes me with His true body and blood. I confess that He washes away my sins in holy baptism and incorporates me into His Body through the same, giving to me and sealing me with His Holy Spirit, by whom he now lives in me. I also confess that He will return in glory to judge the living and the dead, and that all who trust in His atoning sacrifice for sins will enter into the eternal joy of the Father, and all who disbelieve or reject the divine approval and mercy won by Christ will be damned. This is most certainly true. :) This is the Faith which was taught and confessed by the holy Apostles and their successors, and again by Martin Luther, and still today by my colleagues and brothers in the holy Ministry. So, I am orthodox. I'm Lutheran.

Todd said...

I am currently looking at the Orthodox church. I have pretty much experienced all the facets of Western Christiandom from my baptism into the Reformed church, growing up in the Episcopal chruch, my re-baptism in the Assembly of God church, my time in the Catholic church, and my LCMS and seminary experience. I think Western, my theology is very western, my heritage is western. So why the Orthodox church?

It is where I need to be. I will not go into my opinions/experiences of the my other church experiences. As Fr Anthony said (our parish priest) "we can't judge whether people of different churches are truly Christian." (slight paraphrase). The faith that I have learned is OLD. It comes from the beginning. The liturgy is physically, spiritually and mentally demanding. And the Spirit truly speaks to me. For me, I don't want to be anywhere else. And finally, this progidal son has come home!

Richard said...

But the reality on the ground is that the ecclesiology of the Orthodox Church is phyletistic. It would be understandable if any given parish might have a particular ethnic character for historical reasons, so long as Catholic unity were manifest in being under the omophorion of the one bishop of the city. But that is not how it works.

Actually, it is how it works... in historically Orthodox countries.

It doesn't work that way in the United States for a handful of historical reasons. The model of bringing the Faith to a particular geographic area, i.e., missionaries being sent, isn't what happened here, for the most part. The people bringing Orthodoxy to the US were laypeople who came here to try to provide a better life for their family and/or send money back home, not people who intended to serve as missionaries. Parishes then were set up to serve pre-existing communities, not to evangelize. The Russians say that in theory, everybody was under their bishop since they were here first, but I don't know that the Greeks ever saw it that way or were necessarily aware of it.

Even if that was the case, a little thing called the Russian Revolution then took place. To say it complicated matters would be like saying that the San Andreas fault is a little crack in the ground.

The historical reason that we're presently having to deal with more than any other is, well, money. Jurisdictional unity in the States is going to mean a big financial hit to many, if not all, of the mother churches abroad, several of whom are able to survive because the churches in this country are still financially responsible to them. The patriarchate under whom the American church is eventually consolidated has a lot to gain, and everybody else has a lot to lose. Everybody is well aware of the canons, but nobody wants to be the one without a chair when the music stops playing.

The proposed solution which makes a lot of sense to me is to relocate the Patriarch of Constantinople to the United States. It would solve a number of problems at once--which is perhaps why it won't happen.

Richard

John said...

While there is much I can appreciate in Eastern Orthodoxy, what I disagree on (in short form) is as follows:

1. what I perceive as synergism in the Eastern Orthodox view of salvation.
2. a weak view of original sin that results in a semi-Pelagian leaning view of salvation
3. prayers to the departed saints
4. the enthusiasm (schwaermerei) present in much mysticism of the East
5. the epiklesis promoting a separation of the Spirit and the Word
6. the idea of "tollhouses" as promoted by Seraphim Rose
7. the entrenchment of Eastern Orthodoxy in the ethnic enclaves
8. a view of theosis that sounds an awful lot like infused grace and the error of Osiander
9. a view of tradition that only allows for endorsing the status quo as the "life of the Holy Spirit in the Church"
10. you lose a lot of the good western fathers in the Eastern Orthodox Church not to mention the great Lutheran fathers
11. the Lutherans can claim the fathers of both east and west along with the faithful Lutheran confessors
12. tradition is defined far too ambiguously in the Eastern Orthodox church

Chris Jones said...

Richard

I understand the historical background quite well, and in great detail. For me, it does not change the result.

Two hundred years have passed since Orthodox missionaries came to North America, and ninety years have passed since the Russian revolution disrupted the canonical situation here in the United States. It is long past time for the Orthodox to be about the business of being the local Apostolic Church here.

Catholic is as Catholic does.

Michael King said...

Well, I was a pretty zealous Orthodox convert in college, but I hung out with the wrong crowds-parishes that were composed of (mostly) super ultra-dox Orthodox converts who ruined a lot of religion and spirituality (I mean those two terms in the most general sense) for me.

I despise the condescending arguments put forth my Orthodox apologists that
most people who leave the faith are unschooled in the basics of Orthodoxy-like any good convert to Orthodoxy of the last 20 years or so I read sooooo much on Orthodoxy, church history, theology, blah blah blah. My icon corner was practically a chapel.

And, several months ago I came out to my now ex-employer that I'm transgendered, and in the process of changing my gender from male to female. So, needless to say I'm not stepping into any Orthodox parish in the future.

Michael King

A Simple Sinner said...

"The proposed solution which makes a lot of sense to me is to relocate the Patriarch of Constantinople to the United States. It would solve a number of problems at once--which is perhaps why it won't happen."

Or, Richard, a $10-15M trust could be set up for the PoCwhich even returning 3% per year as income could easily replace the low to mid 6-figure income Constantinople counts on from her dependencies here in the US.

But that raises the problem of loss of souls, which in the capital of a nation with only some 100,000 Christians (many of them in turn not Chalcedonian Orthodox or Catholic) is problematic for a patriarchate that is just barely treading water under the weight of even secular Turkish oppression. (A visit to the patriarchal offices in Instanbul is heartbreaking - parochial high school offices seem brighter, cleaner, less repressed and "ghetto"... a midwestern strip mall office would be a step up.)

Which has lead me to ask after thinking about it for over a decade, why does the Patriarch of Constantinople still enjoy such pride of place?

Practically an enfeebled prisoner in the Phanar overseeing (in Turkey) a decimated Greek Orthodox population from whose number only a very few Turkish-born Greek monks could serve as his replacement... The prestige that city enjoyed as second Rome is gone, his patriarchate is not the oldest, and not the most powerful (that would now be Moscow, and they like to show it...)

To suggest he should be moved to America is odd. Although I understand they have property in Switzerland already for a Patriarchal compound - odd choice given the lack of Orthodox to be Patriarch of there, Athens makes more sense.

Why is it odd? Well it seems to ascribe to the office of the Patriarchate a sort of crypto-Petrine See. That office has prestige because of manueverings in a council to benefit the capital of the Eastern empire. It isn't understood in a Catholic Petrine sense to have divinely-bestowed rights and privelages that would follow a bishop anywhere he went by virtue of his still being called the PoC even though he now lived in, I dunno, Hoboken.

That isn't directly answering the question "Why are you not Orthodox?" (thought it tips my hand in showing some of my pragmatic and practical dismay) but this post is too long already & I need to get ready for work... With the OP's permission, I will offer a more direct response as to why this Greek Catholic has remained in unia later.

BioActiv Man said...

I am Catholic for four simple reasons:

1) Catholicism sees itself as the completion of all that is good in the various other Christian countries, and as a Catholic I can affirm all that is good and holy in other Christian churches -- especially in Orthodoxy. On the other hand, to be Orthodox is to deny much that is good in these other churches. To be Orthodox is to condemn the Catholic Church -- my church, the church of my baptism -- as being nothing more than a collection of nasty Frankish heresies and evil, politically-motivated papistical fancies (and that is the impression I get from a good deal of Orthodox websites, especially those linked to ROCOR). It is to deny that our saints are true saints, that men like Francis of Assisi and Teresa of Avila could have been touched by God. To be Catholic is to be truly universal, and to embrace all that is beautiful and good. To be Orthodox is, well, to deny that much of the good that I have clearly seen and heard is indeed good.

2) I am Catholic and not Orthodox because, to be frank about it, Catholic apologists (some of whom are my good friends) are very careful to study the arguments from the opposition, be it Orthodox or Protestant. In contrast, the Orthodox apologists on the Internet that I've read or read about are often breathtakingly ignorant of what they are criticizing. Oftentimes, the "Catholicism" that is attacked by Orthodox writers is simply unrecognizable to this Catholic.

3) I admire the profound spirituality and beauty of Orthodox liturgy and monasticism. Nevertheless, I can't help but ask: why has all this beauty, this apparent closeness to God, failed to fire up a true evangelistic zeal among the Orthodox? Frankly, this doesn't make sense! It is true that the Russian Orthodox once promoted missions in Siberia- Alaska and Asian Russia among the Muslims, pagans and Buddhists there, but this burst of zeal never came close to the missionary zeal of Catholicism, especially in Africa and Asia.

The fact is, I simply don't see myself becoming a member of a Church that, for all its liturgy and monastic piety, is simply not burning to bring Christ to the world.

4) Last but not the least: some Orthodox say that Orthodoxy must be true because it preaches a harder piety, a stricter asceticism, a spirituality that has not compromised with the world. All that is well and good, but I ask: do the Orthodox really practice all that? Even in Russia, church attendance is only 2%, and I notice that the two countries with the worst abortion records are Orthodox (Romania and Russia). Better to preach a "relaxed" spirituality that does get practiced by substantial numbers (as Catholicism does) than a strict one that nobody will ever carry out.

Now, if the Orthodox Church were to produce more David B. Harts and more Hilarion Alfeyevs, tell me and I might actually reconsider. But as long as they seem to be singularities, nope, I'd rather stay where I am

Larry Kamphausen said...

I found this thanks to a link by the Young Fogey. As one with a long dialog with both Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy both in person and in books, and as a writer of icons, it is a question I often ask myself.
My answer is probably a composite of most of those who have respond thus far. The reason is that becoming Orthodox or Roman Catholic involves puzzeling through things that at the moment seem unsolvable. As a member of a denomination founded by Swedish Lutheran Pietist (many of a "high-church variety) I was raised with a strong sense of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Granted our explicit eclesiology would not pass muster and is quite vague, but the implicit theology of the piety I was raised with has always suggested to me an infallible church. When I read the Fathers, and the great theologians of both the Catholics and the Orthodox I hear what I have always known as the Faith in my Lutheran Pietist upbringing. I know that the Holy Spirit has been upon those who taught me the faith.
I do not know how to move from recognizing the one Faith in both my Protestant upbringing (while admitting weaknesses in explicit theology)to leaving behind those who have nurtured me in this Faith without in someway repudiating or denying the work of The Spirit. In a sense to echo one of the comments, given what has brought me to Orthodoxy and able to recognize the fullness of the faith in it (though I find that also in the RC, I will get to that puzzle in a moment)I have a strong conviction that were I to become Orthodox I could not do so just with my wife and I. In the very least I would want to be able to communicate not only that how my parents nurtured me in the faith lead to becoming Orthodox but to communicate their own faith naturally leads their. That piece is currently missing. I find far too many Orthodox converts who seem to become Orthodox in the same way they were Protestant as an individualistic faith journey. If I were to convert that way I might as well remain protestant it seems to me.
The seemingly "phyletist" element in Orthodoxy in the United States, though that is a minor reason given that I know many Orthodox recognize the problem, and I see it as probably how the Modern period has been bad for the Orthodox as it has in differing ways been bad for all Christians.
Lastly it is the Great Schism. I don't buy the argument of some that since Luther and Calvin broke with Rome that if we have found Protestantims wanting we must swim back up the Tiber. Rather, we are distanced enough from Rome (500 years people!) that we are in a peculiar position, or at least I find myself so, looking at two claimants to the being the One True Church, each both in life and theology seem to be truly Catholic and yet there is this schism. I currently can't make sense of it and I keep looking back and forth going Ya you've got a point there, and then to the other oh ya you've got a good point there too. Both sides also have their quacks and narrow minded fundamentalists, unfortunately those among the Orthodox seem to be the most vocal presence on the internet (though I have yet to meet such an Orthodox in person).
Lastly, I know that it would throw peoples faith in a tail spin with whom I currently minister as pastor . Any move to become Orthodox or Catholic would need to be done in ways that is responcible to the small flock God has entrusted to me care and at times I wonder how long I can remain Protestant and an Ecumenist and truly care for them, though I also know that to push the issue now to attempt to put most my energy into getting at least some clarity about the nature of the above puzzles I would not be able to care for them, and would probably sour their sense of the church whether its fullness is found truly in Roman Catholicism or Orthodoxy.
In the end the timing has not been right either I have not been ready or there are larger things at stake than my own individualistic journey of faith.

John Hogg said...

Dear Bioactiv-Man,

I am, perhaps, uniquely suited among the readers of this blog to answer some of the points that you raised, concerning evangelism, church attendance, and abortion rates among the Orthodox.

I just returned less than two months ago from serving as a missionary of the Orthodox Church at an orphanage for disabled children in east-central Ukraine. While I was living there, I attended the nearest parish to me.

I've also lived for four months in Moscow, attending a normal parish of the Russian Church. I speak Russian and Ukrainian, and I've studied in depth the history and culture of Russia and the Soviet Union, both from a secular and a religious point of view.

As such, I can answer your points with my own first and knowledge and experience, as opposed to with theories that may not have a basis in fact.

Your charges, while commonly made, are unfounded, in my experience. In making them, I think you fail to take into account the seriousness of the toll that the Soviet period, a period of martyrdom and persecution to an extent greater than at any time before in Church history, had on the Russian Church and the people.

During a five year period alone during Stalinism, the number of bishops in the Russian Church went from 184 to 7, as many bishops were executed by firing squads or sent off to forced labor concentration camps. Similarly, 40,000 priests were killed, and countless multitudes of monastics and lay people were also given the choice between their lives and their Lord. The Church was destroyed almost entirely. I've gone to liturgy at a monastery where less than 80 years before, the bishop was murdered by the communists at the gates of the monastery.

You cite the high rates of abortion as if this were proof that Orthodoxy can't be what it claims to be. However, what you don't mention is that it was the Soviets who legalized abortion and officially encouraged it. If you go to http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/index.html and look at the historical data for Russia and the Soviet Union, you'll see that the numbers are indeed tragically high, and that they rise steadily throughout the whole Soviet Union. This was very much during a time of suppression of the Church.

However, if you look after 1991, you'll notice that since then, the number of abortions, while still really high, has gone down by more than half. It takes time to change hearts. But the Church is working hard to do just that. While I've lived in Russia and the Ukraine, I've seen parishes distribute pro-life literature free of charge. I've seen priests preach forcefully against abortion. I've seen monks on street corners passing out pro-life information. I've also seen ordinary believers talking to their friends and coworkers about abortion, trying to give them other options and offer them support for keeping the child.

In a society where the atheistic authorities promoted abortion as a form of women's liberation, and where many women had a dozen or more abortions, do you expect things to change overnight? Afterall, it took 300 years for the Faith to win over the Roman Empire.

While not excusing the high abortion rates, I thank God that we've been able to lower them by over half in 15 years.

In terms of low Church attendance rates, you're right -- that isn't good. It might, however, be understandable in societies where, for 75 years, people were taught in school that belief in God was a sign of mental illness, and children were encouraged to report their parents for praying at home, in which cases the parents were often sent off to labor-camps. Even as recently as the 1980s, during the thaw of perestroika, a friend of mine from Ukraine, who was in school at the time, was made to take part in atheistic teaching workshops at schools. They would go from school to school and put on plays where they would mock God and throw rocks at icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary, saying that if there was a God, He would stop them.

(By the way, God did stop my friend, but not in the way that he expected Him to. Instead, God changed his heart. My friend is now a priestmonk and will be made a bishop in the spring. Truly, God desires not the death of a sinner.)

So yes, Church attendance rates in post-Communist societies are not great. They are getting better, though.

What, if I may ask, is the excuse in Catholic Europe, where there has been no such persecution? Why are the Church attendance rates low and falling there, where people have always been free to practice their faith? (http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2006-01-08-faith-edit_x.htm)

I've also lived for four months in Spain, and I rarely saw anyone under the age of 65 at a Catholic mass.

Europe has become post-Christian without the need of any prolonged persecution to make it that way.

In terms of evangelism, where have you been looking? Were you expecting to see large numbers of missionaries coming from Soviet Russia, or Ottoman Greece? And yet, despite persecutions, there have always been missionaries in the Orthodox Church, including to Africa and Asia. St. Stephen of Perm, St. Macarius, St. Herman, St. Innocent, Sts. Cyril and Methodius, Archbishop Anastasios, St. Nicholas of Japan, Fr. Cosmas of Zaire, etc.

In my own personal experience and missionary work, I have been blessed to meet a lot of people working hard to spread the Gospel. While in Ukraine, I was introduced to a local Orthodox student group. The members of the group are active in visiting prisons, orphanages, children's cancer wards, etc. A friend of mine, Yuri, visits a local prison once every week or two to spend time with the prisoners and share the Gospel with them. Over the past couple years, he has seen many of them come to faith, and the prisoners have now, with their own hands, built a chapel in the prison. Yuri may soon be ordained to the priesthood to serve the prisoners.

Another friend of mine is part of a Ukraine-wide organization of Orthodox volunteers visiting children's cancer wards, to comfort those suffering from the after affects of Chernobyl. Several times a week, she goes and spends time with dying children and their parents, brings a priest to give them communion, prays with them, and comforts them, and also from her own small student's budget tries to buy some necessary supplies for the children that the hospital cannot afford, thereby showing the Gospel to these suffering children and their parents.

Here in America, many of my close friends have been on mission trips to different countries around the world, including Africa and Central America, helping to teach, build Churches, and visit the poor and orphans.

So, while I can understand you believing what you've been told, believe me -- It isn't accurate :-)

In Christ,
John

Wordsmyth said...

I'm not Orthodox because I don't know where I stand on papal primacy and development of doctrine. Sometimes I think the Orthodox are right on those issues; sometimes I think the Catholics are right. I truly don't know.

There are things that I love about Catholicism, and there are things that I love about Orthodoxy. The things that I love about one church usually don't exist in the other.

And since both claim to be the One True Church, that makes my decision making all the more difficult. So far God has not led me to convert to either. Maybe I haven't been listening, but that's the way it seems. I remain a reluctant protestant ... all the more so because I'm not really protesting anything.

L.T. said...

I am not Orthodox because I have been sacramentally grafted by the Holy Spirit into the Church of the Apostolic See of Rome, for better and for worse. I cannot break what a true Church of the Apostles has sealed, even if she has been worn down by the heresies and temptations of the world. The superior capacity of the Eastern churches in preserving continuity with the Apostles and the Fathers does not give me leave to jump ship. My salvation is inextricably tied to the Catholic Church, but only because her own bond with the Apostles is not lost, which is something I cannot say about the Protestant communities. Though I am profoundly drawn to Holy Orthodoxy, I can only hope to be Orthodox when Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem (and maybe Moscow too) can feast at the same Eucharistic table. Lord, have mercy on me.

Huw said...

Well there are theological excuses and debates possible on both side, "by their love you shall know them." I fled ECUSA seeking all the usual things - "the church" and "true theology". But ultimately I found that on the whole - at least in the tiny corner of the EO within my reach - it was the heretics and schismatics who showed more love more forgiveness and charity to each other, to others, to outsiders, to insiders.

I know there are other places where EO functions differently. I've seen them online. But they are rare.

Samn! said...

A note on multiple bishops in one city- in the Middle East for the past three hundred or more years there have been multiple Catholic bishops of most cities with large Christian populations. Thus there are at least three Catholic 'patriarchs of Antioch'- Maronite, Greek Catholic, and Syriac. In there are at least six Catholic archbishops of Beirut- Greek Catholic, Syriac, Chaldean, Armenian, Latin, and Maronite. None of these bishops are canonically attached to the other bishops of different churches/rites in these cities. Several American cities are also seats for both Latin and Oriental bishops (New York- Armenians, Newark- Syriacs, Detroit and San Diego- Chaldeans, etc). I have never once heard a Catholic complain about this as a problem or even undesirable.

Chris Jones said...

Samn,

Having multiple bishops in a city is, as you say, not a problem for Roman Catholics. But it is for Orthodox, for at least two reasons: one, because the principle of one bishop in one city was established in one of the canons of the Council of Nicaea (and the ecumenical canons remain normative for Orthodoxy); and two, because phyletism was specifically condemned as a heresy by an Orthodox council in 1872.

I would venture to say that the reason multiple bishops in a city can be acceptable to Roman Catholics is that the principle of unity in the Roman Catholic Church is not the local diocesan bishop, but the communion of all with the one bishop of Rome. For the Orthodox (in theory, at least) the principle of unity is that all orthodox Christians in a given place are in Eucharistic communion with the one bishop of that place.

Richard said...

Christ is born!

Two hundred years have passed since Orthodox missionaries came to North America, and ninety years have passed since the Russian revolution disrupted the canonical situation here in the United States. It is long past time for the Orthodox to be about the business of being the local Apostolic Church here.

There's a joke--the "fast track" in Orthodoxy means we think we can get it done in five hundred years. This joke exists for a reason. "Hurry up" are two words that don't mean much for Orthodoxy, and in all fairness, historical circumstances in this country have only exacerbated the problem.

The solution is charity, not impatience.

To be Orthodox is to condemn the Catholic Church...[and] to deny that our saints are true saints, that men like Francis of Assisi and Teresa of Avila could have been touched by God.

No, to be Orthodox is to be agnostic about the state of those outside our communion. I don't deny that Francis and Teresa could have been touched by God, but neither has the "amen" of the Orthodox Church glorified them. There's a difference between saying "No, they're not" and "I don't know."

Richard

Matthew N. Petersen said...

Richard

There's a difference between saying "No, they're not" and "I don't know."

Well, doctrinally, yes. But if someone has a devotion to St. Francis or St. Teresa, or any other post-schism western saint (or any Eastern Catholic saint) to say "I don't know if he's a saint" is essentially to repudiate a saint. If I ever become Orthodox, I'd have to say that the Catholic Church is a legitimate Orthodox Church, currently in schism with the rest of the Orthodox Churches (kinda like ROCOR was a year ago). Otherwise I'd be abandoning and rejecting saints. Not intellectually abandoning them, but turning my back on them. Turning my back on most of the light I have received. (And I'm Protestant!)

Matthew N. Petersen said...

Chris,

I agree that it is a serious problem that there are so many Orthodox jurrisdictions in America. But I think that the fact is quite understandable historically--America is an immigrant community, so some Russians immigrate, want to keep their local customs, keep their language, and send home for a bishop; some Greeks immigrate, and do likewise.

Or some Russians immigrate to Alaska and the West Coast, some Greeks to New York. They hardly know about each other, and so get different bishops. And as each expands toward the other, they keep their local bishop, and get new bishops of the same jurrisdiction.

It is a problem that it still exists, but overcoming beaurocratic complications really is something difficult, and takes a good deal of time. Is the Orthodox Church really in a worse position now than she was when Athanasius alone believed Christ was God?

And moreover, we don't get away from the ethnicity and regionalism by being Lutheran. Locally there's one Lutheran church from Missouri, and another from Wisconsin (not counting several ELCA churches) and they aren't even in communion with each other.

I'm not attacking Lutherans for that problem, but it seems it's an American problem, and a product of the American system, whatever communion we pick.

Richard said...

But if someone has a devotion to St. Francis or St. Teresa, or any other post-schism western saint (or any Eastern Catholic saint) to say "I don't know if he's a saint" is essentially to repudiate a saint.

Disagree, but we'll have to agree to disagree.

If I ever become Orthodox, I'd have to say that the Catholic Church is a legitimate Orthodox Church, currently in schism with the rest of the Orthodox Churches (kinda like ROCOR was a year ago). Otherwise I'd be abandoning and rejecting saints. Not intellectually abandoning them, but turning my back on them.

I parse this as "I would only become Orthodox on my own terms." This is not to say that there is or is not any merit to the opinions you present, only to say that I pray you never become Orthodox unless you're able to put that aside.

Richard

Abby said...

I'm surprised at the number of people who have rejected the Orthodox church because its outside of their cultural experience... I don't see how that is relavent at all. Jesus was a 1st century Jew. He was about as different from us as you can imagine.

The only reason to be, or not to be, a certain religion depends on whether or not its true.

I'm a catechumen in the Orthodox church, but hesitate on becoming fully Orthodox for a number of reasons. So here are my reasons for not YET becoming Orthodox. If they sound harsh, it because I feel this is a matter of utmost importance.

First, because the O.C. (like virtually all Christian denominations) has killed and persecuted, and continues to kill and persecute, a lot of people, especially fellow Christians (anaptist).

Second, because Orthodox priests are almost universally horrible preachers.

Third, because I'm not convinced that infant baptism is warranted by either Scripture or history.

Fourth, because while I appreciate commemorating the saints, I'm not sure about the theology of intercession that has developed around their cult.

Fifth, because while I see a linguistic difference between veneration and worship, I am not convinced there is any practical difference. In other words, despite arguments to the contrary, I'm not entirely convinced that veneration is not idolatrous.

Sixth, because the Orthodox church seems completely uninterested in the Bible (are there any Orthodox Biblical scholars? Nope.)

Seventh, because there are no great Orthodox theologians (ok, ok, maybe Olivier Clement. And possibly David Bentley Hart (who is something of an Orthodox outsider). Everyone else seems to concentrate on neo-Palamasism and historical issues.

Eighth, because the Byzantine liturgy seems designed to obfuscate the message of the gospel. Yes, multiple chapters of Scripture and prayers are chanted during the service, but in such a way that it becomes a monotonous drone. Preaching is almost never, or only peripherally connected to the Scriptures. In short, the common person never learns anything. For instance, I recently spoke to a fiercely Greek Orthodox family, who had attended church for decades upon decades, who had no idea why Jesus died, or what being born again meant, etc.

Ninth, because hesychasm seems like rehashed Hinduism.

Tenth, because the O.C. seems intellectually, aesthetically, and theologically dried up.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

I parse this as "I would only become Orthodox on my own terms." This is not to say that there is or is not any merit to the opinions you present, only to say that I pray you never become Orthodox unless you're able to put that aside.

Well, see, this is a real problem for me. On many issues, I agree with the Orthodox Church. Actually, on nearly everything I agree with the Orthodox Church. But Christ said that Christians are the light of the world. By looking to the saints we see Christ. But I have seen Christ most clearly in St. Francis, and St. Therese of the Child Jesus, and St. Thomas Aquinas, and Dante, and St. John of the Cross. (And of course the Mother of God.) And I simply cannot say "that may not really be a light" and look elsewhere for light, anymore than Dante could say "Beatrice may not really be the light, I'll look for the light elsewhere."

Anyway, I really wish this (and other similar problems) didn't exist, because then I could find something of a community. Sigh. I believe Orthodox should say "the Catholic Church is in schism, but, Deo Volente, some day the schism will be ended." But if some day the Great Schism will be ended, both sides really are Churches, even now. You cannot restore communion with the Dahli Lama.

Richard said...

By looking to the saints we see Christ.

Agreed.

And I simply cannot say "that may not really be a light" and look elsewhere for light, anymore than Dante could say "Beatrice may not really be the light, I'll look for the light elsewhere."

Again, there's a qualitative difference between saying "I don't know" and "There may not really be a light." It's not unheard of for people who were, strictly speaking, not in visible communion with the Orthodox Church to be remembered as saints; St. Isaac the Syrian was part of the Church of the East (Nestorian), but he is still acknowledged as a saint.

Point is, I don't know of anybody in Orthodoxy who would quibble with anybody's private devotion to Francis or Teresa. Again, the Orthodox position on them isn't "they aren't saints," but "we don't know." Were there to be a critical mass of popular devotion to either of them among the Orthodox, that answer could change, but there's not really a need to read into that a de facto repudiation.

I believe Orthodox should say "the Catholic Church is in schism, but, Deo Volente, some day the schism will be ended." But if some day the Great Schism will be ended, both sides really are Churches, even now. You cannot restore communion with the Dahli Lama.

There are Orthodox who believe this. It's telling that we've never established another Patriarchate of Rome.

Richard

Richard said...

Abby--

In terms of the points where you say "I'm not entirely convinced..." Along the lines of what I said earlier in response to somebody else's post: if you're not willing to accept the church's hermeneutic on those things, or as you put it, if you don't believe those things are true, you're right, you should hesitate and continue hesitating until you do believe it. I will only suggest that if you're hesitant because you can't reach the Orthodox conclusion (or the Catholic conclusion) by applying a Protestant hermeneutic, that perhaps shouldn't be a surprise.

I will say that your comment on Orthodox priests being "universally horrible" is totally at odds with my own experience, as well as your point about the liturgy "obfuscating" the gospel. A few other points are simply factually wrong.

Sixth, because the Orthodox church seems completely uninterested in the Bible (are there any Orthodox Biblical scholars? Nope.)

Seventh, because there are no great Orthodox theologians (ok, ok, maybe Olivier Clement. And possibly David Bentley Hart (who is something of an Orthodox outsider). Everyone else seems to concentrate on neo-Palamasism and historical issues.

Fr. John Behr, for one? Fr. Alexander Schmemann? Hardly Orthodox who are "completely uninterested in the Bible". It is true that by and large Orthodox scholars don't particularly want to play by the rules that have been set out by the historical-critical method of textual analysis (although Fr. Paul Terazi has done this to some extent); there is a different set of assumptions brought to the table which make it hard to engage the current conversation. There is, however, a growing attempt to reclaim some of the discourse, notably by Fr. John Behr and Brown University professor Susan Ashbrook Harvey.

Tenth, because the O.C. seems intellectually, aesthetically, and theologically dried up.

As far as the intellectual and theological assertions go, I think that's answered above--as far as aestheticism goes, I think that's also demonstrably untrue. Being a church musician, that's the area with which I am most familiar, and there are composers of new music all over the place. The point, however, is that anything "new" must still be within the received tradition. There are organic adaptations that occur based on various factors; one example would be how the design of domes was altered to fit the climate and geography of Russia. Another example would be which building materials are most plentiful based on location. Language is another.

Richard

Samn! said...

Chris,

Do the canons of first Nicaea not apply to Catholics?

Importantly, though, this illustrates the difference between Orthodox and Catholic attitudes towards canons. While, at least as far as I can tell, Catholics consider anything less than akrivia to be technically a sin, Orthodox tend to look at canons as the measure of what's best, but realize that not all practical situations can allow for akrivia. For example, while the canons call for one bishop per city and the ecclesiology calls for everyone in a city to be in communion with the same bishop, in practice in some situations it's enough that all given bishops are in communion with each other(this mutuality is the Orthodox equivalent of Catholics' requirement that all bishops be in communion with the pope) and that no jusidiction itself has multiple bishops in the same city. There are historical precedents though, for non-geographically based bishoprics in Orthodoxy- nomadic tribes (phyla!) were often given their own nomadic bishops. (See Irfan Shahid's works for how this worked in pre-Islamic Arabia).

Phylitism, however, is a serious problem and it is interesting that in practice the Catholic Church basically embraces it. However, the condemnation of 1874 was against a situation rather different from the diasporan situation- it was basically a condemnation for the Bulgarians' unilateral restoration of their autocephaly after their country's independance. (This is paralleled in today's situation between the FYROM and Serbia). The Bulgarian church was actually out of communion with everyone else because of this until 1945. But it seems to me that in practical, pastoral terms for most of the past hundred years having different ethnic bishops for various immigrant flocks has been useful if not just necessary. It seems doubtful that that's really as much the case today, but Orthodox tend to want to changle slowly rather than risk causing unnessesary offence to their brothers (the calendar disaster is kind of the ultimate cautionary tale in that regard). Much progress will be made towards this, however, when American hierarchs stop associating unification of jurisdiction in America with an autocephalous American church, which is a rather different question.

orrologion said...

Matthew,

When Orthodoxy talks about where the Church is and isn't (or may not be, or that others status is unknown), this is a very different thing than saying that everything outside of the Orthodox Church is undifferentiated darkness. There are wonderful things that are outside of the Church, they are just not a part of the Church. For instance, Christmas Carols are wonderful, they are just not hymns of the Church. The novels of Dostoevsky are wonderful, they are just not part of the liturgy or spiritual tradition of the Church as Church.

Good examples of the Orthodox Churches use of non-Orthodox materials insofar as they are Orthodox are the use of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk of Lutheran pietist works, personally, and of the adaptation by Sts Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain (Greek) and Theophan the Recluse (Russian) of "Unseen Warfare" by the Roman Catholic, Lorenzo Scupoli. I also remember St. Barsanuohius of Optina's love for a sentimental Western painting of a Guardian Angel protecting a child crossing a bridge; it was wonderfully appropriate for everything but liturgical use.

All that being said, it should also be remembered that the devil can masquerade as an angel of light. That which to us may seem preeminently spiritual may be quite the opposite. This is why it is important to be under the guidance of one who is more spiritually experienced than we are. It is quite easy for wife, family, culture, inclusiveness, zealotry, our own thoughts and opinions and the like to stand in the place of God. A quick look at the US religious landscape should put all of us - Orthodox, non-Orthodox, non-Christian, areligious - on our guard for mistaking cultural and intellectual paradigms as theology (or atheology).

The Lord bless your inquiry in the Way. Are you praying and worshiping regularly, fasting, etc.? None of these things are clear without first wiping the muck from your eyes so as to see.

Chris Jones said...

Samn,

Do the canons of first Nicaea not apply to Catholics?

Actually, technically they do not. In the Roman Catholic system, canons of ecumenical councils have no force until and unless they are confirmed by the Pope; and that confirmation can be withdrawn at will. The canon law of the Roman Catholic Church has been revised and codified several times over the centuries, most recently by Pope John Paul II in 1983. The promulgation of a revised code of canon law by the Pope has the effect of rendering all previous canonical legislation obsolete. Thus the canons of Nicaea (or of any other ecumenical council) are binding on the Roman Catholic Church only if they continue to exist in the current code of canon law promulgated by the Pope.

With regard to rest of your comment, it is true that in Orthodoxy the canons are sometimes applied according to akrivia and sometimes according to oikonomia. But I disagree with your suggestion that contemporary jurisdictionalism is an instance of oikonomia. The principle of oikonomia is that the strict application of the canons may be relaxed in particular instances when that is what is best for the salvation of souls. I would argue that the problem with contemporary jurisdictionalism is that it makes ethnic identity and cultural heritage the organizing principle of the Church. This inevitably obscures the Gospel of Jesus Christ and cripples the ability of the Church to manifest her Apostolic character. There is nothing about this situation that is good for the salvation of souls, either for the ethnic communities themselves or for the wider society to which the Church ought to be proclaiming the Gospel. Thus I do not think that this is a proper application of the principle of oikonomia.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

Richard,

I think I was thinking of a personal shift from "I know this person is a saint, and look to him to see Christ" to "I don't know if he is a saint, and thus need to look elsewhere to see Christ"; where as you are talking about the difference between "As an institution we say this person is a saint and worthy of reverence" "As an institution we have no official position, but individual members may have positions" and "as an institution we say they are not saints."

Hence the confusion.

Orrologian,

I attend a Orthodox Vespers service on Wednesday nights, I go to (but do not receive) daily Mass several times a week at the local Catholic Church. I am a member of Trinity Reformed Chruch (CREC), my pastor is Peter Leithart, and I regularly attend Sunday services. I had trouble figuring out how to fast for Advent because of family reasons, and obviously, I'm not fasting any longer. I hate talking like this. "In your own chamber" and all. But I'll answer your question so much if it is helpful for you. I probably need to pray more.

Matt

Matthew N. Petersen said...

And Orrologian, thank you for your kind words.

Richard said...

Matthew: that's actually a vital distinction. Orthodoxy is rather "bottom-up" in that regard.

orrologion said...

Matthew,

It's important for us to be diligent in approaching important matters, such as religion. So, take your time, but remember it is later than you think - as my spiritual father told me when I was inquiring.

At the same time, be careful not to become a religious tourist or fall into religious play acting. It is tempting to approach religion sensually, as an enjoyment, as a hobby, as a way to spice up our drab lives. Hopping between churches can become as enjoyable as changing channels on the TV, or eating at different restaurants each day - we develop some favorite varieties, but never like to eat the same thing all the time. Religion is different.

There are aspects of the Orthodox and Catholic and Reformed churches that are the same, but there are important differences further down. At some point, a choice must be made. Whatever that choice, make sure it is a choice FOR and TO that church and not AGAINST or FROM the others. There are very good things in all peoples (and their organizations) since we are made in the image of God. The point is where can we image forth most fully the image of God in us? That calls into question what we believe likeness to the image of God entails? God and his religion, for a strict TULIP Calvinist, looks quite different from the God of the Orthodox and in important ways from the God of the Roman Catholics, which is why triadology and christology were so important to the early Church.

May the Theotokos bless you in your search for the Body of Her Son.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

Orrologian,

Thanks again for the kind words and for the exhortation.

Matt

A Simple Sinner said...

John Hogg the seemless transition from discussing the situation in Russia and Ukraine to the incessant contradistinction so omnipresent in American Orthodoxy - especially among the combox warriors, of which I have become a veteran is telling.

"I've also lived for four months in Spain, and I rarely saw anyone under the age of 65 at a Catholic mass."

So "I've been to Russia, things are getting not as bad. I was in Spain, your criticisms are valid there."

No mention of the Spanish martyrs or consideration of the consumerist and political ideologies that have decimated the Church in the west - Greece included.

All things being equal if the pan-non-Catholic claims against the papacy resonated with me, this sort of talk would do little to convince me that the Orthodox churches were right after demonstrating Rome was wrong.

samn! writes "I have never once heard a Catholic complain about this as a problem or even undesirable."

And here is the difference with distinction - in looking to the same Holy See for confirmation in their teaching and witness, you don't end up with competing bishops. In American Orthodoxy the competing episcopal sees will NOT be of one mind on the validity of Antiochian Western rite liturgy, the baptism of Catholic converts, how to recieve Catholic clergy, what if any forms of birth control are acceptable.

My ROCOR neighbor believes no birth control is acceptable - as his bishop says and Catholics should be recieved with chrismation. My Greek neighbor believes ABC is ok - no distinction is made for abortifacient contraceptions - and her bishop doesn't allow the baptism of converts, except it DOES happen at monasteries. My Macedonian neighbor doesn't have a problem with her RC cousins from Brazil taking communion when they are visiting. They ARE half Macedonian after all. huh?

But very simply, why is this Greek Catholic not Orthodox? I am convinced of the papal claims, and have not been convincinly unconvinced of them.

Before wading into the canons, modernism, the filioque (something not 3 out of 100 com-box warriors can speak intelligently about, I am one of the 97) or the Immaculate Conception or WHICHEVER/WHATEVER, I need to be convinced that the papacy as understood by Rome is wrong. All manner of tangential arguments against all the rest of the minutae or debate about whose ethnics are more pious, nicer, righteous victims or have better food, is useless to my consideration.

matt said...

One word: ethnocentrism.

David B. said...

I just found this post, via a post SimpleSinner made at the Per Christum blog, so excuse my lateness in responding.

I seriously considered becoming either Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox after I came to the conclusion that Anglicanism in reality is a rather incoherent form of Protestantism. Every time the Anglican communion would drive me crazy, I would say, "I'll probably be Orthodox at some point." So I surprised even myself when I became Roman Catholic in 2004.

Here are a few of the main reasons:

1. Like Fr. Kimel, I liked that the Catholic Church recognized the East as fully Apostolic, and the Roman Catholic Church has made reunion with the East a real priority. I wanted to join a church that was truly open to Eastern and Western expressions of Catholicism. For me, joining the Roman Catholic Church was the most universal option of the two.

2. Some of my friends who were becoming Orthodox suddenly started bashing the Western Church and Western expression of the faith. I know that I was dealing with zealous converts (and we Roman Catholics have our share), but I do not believe that I have to become Eastern to embrace the Catholic faith. I admit that I am Western, and have a Western mindset. I don't feel as if this is a disorder or tantamount to heresy.

Having said this, I do respect and admire the East, and always try to include the Eastern perspective on my blog and in my classroom, especially seeing as how the Catholic Church has Eastern rites. I even admit I prefer John of Damascus over Augustine, but nonetheless, I am Western, no matter how hard I try.

Fr. J. said...

My sense of the Orthodox Churches is mixed. I am very attracted to the Eastern liturgy which is beautiful beyond words. But, I can find that at my local Byzantine Catholic church (UGCC). But I have real trouble getting past a few personal observations about the Orthodox.

1. Orthodoxy is far too nationalistic with myriad divisions and subdivisions whereas Catholicism is well universal in its embrace. It seems to me that Orthodox unity is a technical matters and that they are not unified organically.

2. Rome is by scripture and tradition the sine qua non of the Christian Church. The Orthodox are far too dismissive of Rome and her essential role going back to the beginning.

3. Only Rome has a comprehensive and comprehensible approach to faith and morals. In the increasingly complex modern society, only Rome really addresses all the issues. It takes more than the aesthetics of a beautiful liturgy to deal with modern life.

4. I am put off by the triumphalistic and dismissive tone of the Orthodox I have come in contact with on the net. It strikes me as less than thoroughly Christian.

5. The Orthodox refusal to recognize that anyone outside Orthodoxy is a Christian is offensive to me.

6. The rampant anti-Catholicism among the Orthodox.

7. I hold the Catholic faith and find the rejection of Original Sin and the teachings of St. Augustine is serious flaw in Orthodox theology. The Orthodox tend to oppose Original Sin which is obviously scriptural not on theological grounds but because it wasn't conceived of first by an Eastern theologian. That is, it almost impossible to have a theological discussion with the Orthodox as they simply say "that is not our tradition." I have found very little discussion of theology on the merits.

diane said...

Is it too late to post here? I just found this fascinating discussion. :-)

The big reason I am not Orthodox is that I am completely convinced that Catholicism = the fullness of the truth. I am absolutely convinced that the papacy (with real primacy of jurisdiction, not a toothless, meaningless primacy of honor) was instituted by Christ and accepted by the pre-Schism Church, both East and West. I think the extensive testimony of the Fathers to papal primacy receives too little serious consideration from Orthodox polemicsts (many of whom, in my experince, simply rehash warmed-over fundamentalist-Protestant anti-Catholic arguments).

But, while those are my intellectual reasons, they are not my "heart" reason, if that makes sense. My heart reason was well articulated above by BioActiv man:

Catholicism sees itself as the completion of all that is good in the various other Christian [traditions], and as a Catholic I can affirm all that is good and holy in other Christian churches -- especially in Orthodoxy. On the other hand, to be Orthodox is to deny much that is good in these other churches. To be Orthodox is to condemn the Catholic Church -- my church, the church of my baptism -- as being nothing more than a collection of nasty Frankish heresies and evil, politically-motivated papistical fancies (and that is the impression I get from a good deal of Orthodox websites, especially those linked to ROCOR). It is to deny that our saints are true saints, that men like Francis of Assisi and Teresa of Avila could have been touched by God. To be Catholic is to be truly universal, and to embrace all that is beautiful and good. To be Orthodox is, well, to deny that much of the good that I have clearly seen and heard is indeed good.

AMEN!!! That is it in a nutshell for me.

A former colleague used to wear a sweatshirt, around Christmas-time, with a sceenprint that said, "Santa, I want it all." Well, my motto is: "Jesus, I want it all." East and West, Augustine and Chrysostom, icons and statues, rosaries and chotkis, Francis of Assisi and Seraphim of Sarov, the papacy and the episcopate, stained glass and pantocraters, mysticism and scholasticism...I want it all. Catholicism is so freeing and healthy and life-giving in its comprehensiveness and completeness (in a word: its catholicity). Whereas, to tell the honest truth, Orthodoxy kind of repels me: It seems suffocatingly narrow by comparison. I do not mean to be offensive, but this is how it strikes me viscerally. I simply could not become Orthodox, ever. I could not abandon the open, sunny, glad world of Catholicism for the narrow exclusivism of Orthodoxy. The very thought makes me feel almost sick. I am not kidding -- it's a physical, visceral reaction.

God bless y'all, my brothers and sisters in Christ :D

Diane

nukeDaddy said...

I am an Orthodox convert who has gone through serious buyer's remorse in America. Orthodoxy needs monasticism to remain spiritually balanced - it is beautiful and good, but it is seriously crippled in America because of a lack of monasticism and lack of an American egalitarian culture that will arise only when there is an American monastic tradition.

I wish Roman Catholics and Orthodox would read Clement's first Epistle. It is a prescription for healing the Church rift and it makes so much sense.

Serious repentance is needed all the way around this 1000 year schism. There is a primacy of love that would work if people gave it a chance, but unfortunately, many have crept in.....

Fr John W Fenton said...

Hi Nukedaddy,

Thanks for reading and commenting.

I agree that monasticism is important to the Church. While there are several monasteries, I agree that there should be more. Several bishops have made this a priority. Regrettably, the Antiochian Archdiocese has been slower than most in developing monasteries in the U.S.

I also agree that reunion between the Orthodox and Catholic churches (as well as Orthodox jurisdictional unity) will occur only when heartfelt repentance occurs. Pride is the key obstacle in both instances.

orrologion said...

I would note that 'monasticism' is simply an organized, more highly committed form of the lay life of an Orthodox Christian. The only difference, ideally, between me and a monk is one woman. I too am meant to fast, pray, keep vigil, be obedient and stable, and keep chaste and content in relations with my wife. That means, monasticism begins in the lay home. While there are many monasteries within easy driving distance from my homes on the East Coast, their lack in much of the country has more to do with our own weaknessed, not the weakness of the Church Herself.

orrologion said...

I would note that 'monasticism' is simply an organized, more highly committed form of the lay life of an Orthodox Christian. The only difference, ideally, between me and a monk is one woman. I too am meant to fast, pray, keep vigil, be obedient and stable, and keep chaste and content in relations with my wife. That means, monasticism begins in the lay home. While there are many monasteries within easy driving distance from my homes on the East Coast, their lack in much of the country has more to do with our own weaknessed, not the weakness of the Church Herself.