Saturday, September 06, 2014

A critic of the Christian East

Although I'm Roman Rite, the great thing about being Catholic is it doesn't force you to hate the East in order to love the West. That's why I'm here and defend the Greek Catholic option for conservative Catholics; I think some of us are called to that. Also, mother church offers both the unlatinized and latinized forms of the Byzantine Rite. That said, this, quoted by a priest, is just food for thought. I've noticed that, trying to deny they're really Catholic, Orthodox apologists will sound Pelagian about original sin and Lutheran about the Eucharist; comes naturally to the ex-evangelical convert stars of Antioch. Can you add to this the influence of "Christian gnostic" Jacob Boehme among Russian Orthodox? Anyway, fair criticism of Orthodoxy or anti-Eastern screed? You tell me. I'm not at all anti-Eastern but this seems to well expose the myth of Eastern superiority you find among starry-eyed converts online.
I recently suggest to a friend whom I respect that he look to the East to gain insight into liturgy and an appreciation of the sacraments. His response took me by surprise. And, frankly I am not well enough read to understand most of it. I am making no accusations, but am seeking some explanation of his critique and the Orthodox response. Thank you all in advance.
I also am not terribly concerned with the Easterners' theology. They are wrong on the filioque, they are wrong on the essence-energy distinction (which is almost polytheistic), and they never really where touched by the genius of Augustine (whom some of them brand a heretic ... despite him being officially blessed), nor was their theology ever adquately refined by the Pelagian controversy.

Their theology is also dripping with the theurgic practices of Iamblichean Neoplatonism (I like Plotinian Neoplatonism) by way of Proclus's influence on Pseudo-Dionysus the Aeropagite ... it makes it seem like their whole theology (especially Hesychasm) is a Christianized version of Neoplatonic Theurgic and hermetical practices.

20 comments:

  1. The more I learned about Eastern Orthodoxy, the less I liked it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I almost needed a sick bag reading our critic's little diatribe against the East. I bet this writer also thinks every married clergy since apostolic times was in a 'celibate' marriage.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I treat those issues separately. I know there are Westerners who are dead wrong on that as you describe, even intelligentsia such as the late Hans Urs von Balthasar. Still, considering the filth many Orthodox throw at us about being a blaspheming, heretical sect with no real baptism, etc., let's see if they can take it like they dish it out.

      Delete
    2. I would be grateful if you could direct me to some material on the apostolic authority of non-celibate clerical marriage.

      Delete
    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    4. Ever hear of Saint Paul? He wrote a good chunk of the New Testament, which, last time I checked, was in the Bible. And he famously noted, among other things, that a single man can more single-mindedly serve The Lord than a married one.

      BTW, before you call someone else an idiot, you may want to learn proper punctuation. Commas are your friends. Just sayin'.

      Delete
    5. John, by all means refute, but as long as we don't throw copy-cat straw men back at the East.

      Delete
    6. I don't appreciate the sarcasm. I asked a sincere question.

      Yeah, I have read those passages, though I have also read Catholics argue that apostles like Peter were in celibate marriages.

      I have also read Catholics argue that most of the Patristic documents teach that clerical marriages were required to be celibate. I was asking if somebody could direct me to a refutation of that.



      Delete
  3. I'm wondering if there's more to the quote. All I'm seeing right now is the same old accusations without any substantial critique to back it up - basically like if I were to trot out the old screed against the Latin church (pope as monarch changing doctrine at a whim, filioque as teaching the double procession from eternity, etc) without supplying examples. Hell, the essence-energies complaint is useless without any attempt to explain WHY we're wrong.

    I'm especially tired of seeing the St Augustine example trotted out yet again. Yes, St Augustine doesn't have the earth-shaking impact on the East that he does for the West- and the West doesn't rely on the Cappadocian Fathers as we do (different emphasis in theology between Rome and the East goes back to before there was ever a Constantinople). Yes, you can find some Orthodox who insist that St Augustine is a borderline heretic (though not quite a damning accusation for the East - we also have to deal with St Gregory of Nyssa's Origenism and universalism) and might even deny the "St" - as I can find all sorts of Catholics claiming all sorts of strange things regarding Eastern saints. It should be noted, too, that St Augustine is more than officially "blessed"- he is indeed a saint in the Orthodox church (we don't have a distinction between "blessed" and "saint". Those who claim otherwise are misinformed) and is commemorated on June 15. And any Convertodox (especially those from the Evangelical denominations) who claims that St Augustine was not somehow instrumental in their conversion is the worst sort of poser and liar.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But why then do some Orthodox writers called Augustine 'Blessed' while calling other saints 'Saint'?

      Delete
  4. You can agree with all of the criticism in this quotation and defend married priests and even use the unlatinized form of the Byzantine Rite, as improbable as that is.

    Priestly celibacy is just a rule, the enforcement of which in the West among Eastern Catholics caused a schism for no good reason, so it's not a hill I would die on, even though the wrong people in the West (guilt by association: Protestantizers and Modernists) sort of want married priests, "sort of" because they have the Protestant rule in mind (a clergyperson may marry), not the Eastern one (a married man may become a priest but a priest may not marry). So there's no point to arguing whether St. Paul's opinion on celibacy being better is binding. It's not.

    The great thing about the Catholic Church vs. Orthodoxy is it's not a Byzantine monoculture (for all their window dressing in the West with their little Western Rite experiments, the Orthodox make you byzantinize and hate your own Christian roots; Eastern Catholics on the other hand include whole ethnoi). I'm not talking about accepting heresy, or contradiction such as Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals being in the same communion (Peter Robinson, if I understand him rightly: since the 1800s there have been Catholic Anglicans and Protestant Anglicans; they were bound to crash like two cars playing chicken), but the church has different schools of spirituality and even of theology short of doctrinal differences, which often don't get along! (Brideshead Revisited: the English Catholic Church in the '20s was four factions trying to blackguard each other). Franciscan vs. Jesuit. Tridentine vs. conservative Novus Ordo (our worse enemies in church politics than the patronizing liberals). I put Aquinas vs. Palamas, essence-energies, etc. in this category. So the Melkites venerate Palamas, no problem. (Born Orthodox get the benefit of the doubt.) The Orthodox can scream all they want about it being a doctrinal difference; the great thing about being here is I don't answer to them. I only see one faith: God, Christ, Trinity, hypostatic union, Mother of God, bishops, the Mass, and the option of using images. In that list of essentials we see a Catholicity we still share with them; it's their loss that they don't. (Worshipping the monoculture instead of God, in practice.)

    Mr. Commini is right that in Orthodoxy there's no rank of beatified below saint. Some saints are called "blessed" instead; I don't know why.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for not calling me an idiot like that other commenter.

      Perhaps the Orthodox writers who call Augustine 'Blessed' are just trying to annoy Catholic readers.

      Delete
    2. Some, perhaps. It would be the traditional use for the East, but I think in any recent English-speaking literature, especially the type that would have both a Catholic and Orthodox readership, insisting on the use of "Blessed" alone is perhaps looking for a fight. As well, I have seen a few Orthodox who believe that "Blessed" also means "somehow falling short of 'Saint'". These tend to be either one of three types: converts from a high-church Western tradition (anything from Roman Catholicism to high Lutheran or Anglo-Catholic); cradles taught in Catholic schools; and others in the church who received this information from the former two by a bizarre game of telephone (and oddly enough, always learned by reference to St Augustine).

      Were I the less charitable type I might blame the so-called "Western Captivity" of the Orthodox for influencing this view of the term "blessed". But I see the "'blessed' doesn't mean 'saint'" view exclusively from English (as the primary) language Orthodox. Foreign language Orthodox who use St Augustine as their whipping boy for all things Western have much more convoluted methods of getting around the fact of our veneration.

      Delete
    3. I think you're onto something. Gotta love the irony: the anti-Westernism is in fact Western, or you see it less among happy, secure ethnic Orthodox. Converts as self-hating yet bringing in a Western habit — "blessed" vs. "saint" — and using it against us. (Wherever you go, there YOU are.) Someone has written, and I've quoted him, that today's concept of "the Orthodox Church," as opposed to various indigenous Orthodox churches (still actually little to do with each other), only dates from the printing of The Pedalion, and that today's intelligentsia Orthodox anti-Westernism, the kind that claims to return to the early church fathers (the same argument high-church Anglicans who aren't Catholic wannabes make), away from bad old scholasticism (the "Western captivity" of Orthodoxy), actually comes from their leading scholars using Catholic sources early to mid-20th century. Actually, such conveniently buy into Catholic liberals' misreading of Vatican II ("Catholicism no longer teaches it's the true church"; Balamand is doctrine; "we don't believe that in the East" = "the Catholic Church no longer teaches...") so they seem friendlier to us than, say, ROCOR (different irony: deeply Catholicized with scholasticism and Western art and music, but they hate our guts because we're rival true churches), but they're really not, because with our liberals they posit a fantasy Catholicism, not the magisterium. Which some convert Greek Catholics swallow: the heresy of byzcath.org.

      It also reminds me of liberal R. Scott Appleby on fundamentalism, and he's not unkind to small-o orthodox who aren't fundamentalists: people including fundamentalists themselves think it's anti-modern but it's very modern, a creation of modernity, very adaptable.

      As Owen White might agree, lifestyle-accessory convertodoxy is really just another flavor of the American religion. To be fair, intégriste Catholics (hardcore, European fascist and monarchist SSPX) and other paleoconservatives think the same of us non-Vatican II American Catholics (patriots who love the '50s), because we flourished under American-style religious liberty, getting along, Rotary fashion (they'd accuse us of being Masons), rather than going psycho on our neighbors ("You're all going to HELL unless you join us!") like Fr. Feeney wanted us to. They might think we're a kind of "Protestant" too, like the convertodox; sed contra I'd say we're just being decent, not compromising.

      Delete
  5. I was somewhat taken aback not by the post, but by some of the comments regarding celibacy. There is no theological reason the West can't have married priests. There have always been men who were valid priests who were validly married in the Catholic Church. The issue of celibacy is not a matter of doctrine, but of practice and canon law. Why on earth would anyone think that married priests were in a marriage without sex? (I assume that is what they meant by "celibate marriage", since celibacy does not mean "without sex" but means "unmarried.")

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Because although dumb, chauvinistic Roman Rite Catholics are much exaggerated by byzantinophile disloyal Catholics online, they exist; some of them try to dogmatize priestly celibacy by claiming that clerical marriage is meant to abstain from sex. Good thing the church is indefectible so she doesn't listen to these bozos.

      Delete
  6. Lutheran about the Eucharist

    You say that like it's a bad thing, John. We Lutherans are orthodox on the Eucharist. Those who claim that we teach "consubstantiation" will find no support for it in the Lutheran Confessions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Which is why I didn't write "consubstantiation." The Lutherans are our close cousins, but on this the church says "close but no," so I say close but no.

      Delete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete

Leave comment