Thursday, November 13, 2014

Byzantium: Talking to a Catholic revert

For ecumenical sensitivity we can ask the intercession of St. Josaphat and St. Alexis of Wilkes-Barre...I'm sure in heaven they have worked things out.
"St. Alexis of Wilkes-Barre"? No, thanks. As I blogged earlier: "Been told that Archbishop Ireland wrote in a private letter that Fr. Toth had gambling debts, asked the archbishop for a loan, and was turned down. The Russian bishop gave him the money. Every story has two sides."
In the grand scheme of things heaven is the ultimate ecumenical solution to division if on earth we can't get with the prayer of Jesus when he asks for unity (John 17:20-23). There are no separate rooms for the Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics who can't play nice and get along--in the divine Light we will transcend our dividing walls while on this Earth.
Sure, for born Orthodox not guilty of schism. Such as Nicholas II. Toth was a seminary professor who knew better. No.
Understood. As a Byzantine Catholic as well I feel it is good to recognize historical pain, but I have tried to move closer to dialogue as I have grown older. It is not an easy process to forgive the historical injustices on both sides and I don't expect other Eastern Catholics, especially our brothers and sisters who are persecuted to move in that direction or anyone for that matter. Everyone must follow his or conscience in these matters.
Oh, yes, dialogue and relationships practically unthinkable 50 years ago, such as going to the Slavic Orthodox parish for Vespers.
It is difficult. I remember going to St. A's Orthodox Church when I was in B. years ago and the priest there lecturing me about the evils of uniatism and how I needed to leave St. C's in D. and become truly Orthodox... he left me in tears...but I have since met many Orthodox priests and laity who are very friendly to us and understand that what is important is to develop friendships and mutual understanding between our Churches. After that experience with Father E., I felt inferior as an Eastern Christian--my mentors' and my experience at St. F and St. G led us to join the Orthodox Church. I have since returned to the BCC but it has been a hard road for me. But, I think the road to true dialogue is rooted in the Mystery of Repentance and humility--and now I have moved past historical pain otherwise I will lose my soul.
"I remember going to St. A's Orthodox Church when I was in B. years ago and the priest there lecturing me about the evils of uniatism and how I needed to leave St. C's in D. and become truly Orthodox... he left me in tears..." I've nearly always encountered that garbage online rather than in person. But stories like that are partly why I haven't set foot in an Orthodox church for three years. Celebrating the set of beliefs we share with them means more than "being truly Orthodox." That is, the church > Byzantium, which Fr. E. and his kind just don't get.
I know. At first we went to St. F and St. G as a way to experience an Eastern community which was a model of a de-latinized Eastern Church--which is what Father R. at St. C's was working toward and then eventually we developed an ecclesial inferiority complex, to put it mildly, they and I having been received into Orthodox churches. I am sure they would be upset I returned to the Byzantine Catholic Church, but I felt the Lord calling me back--although I did enjoy my time at St. H's in I. and loved the priest and people there. That is why disunity hurts me deeply since I experience the consequences of it in my decision to return to the Byzantine Catholic Church years ago. I miss being Eastern Orthodox but when I was Orthodox I missed the Ruthenian Church and our traditions and tones. It is so difficult having tasted the goodness of both Churches and having to leave one and go into schism from the other. There are some days when I miss my Orthodox parish but I have to follow my conscience and hopefully the Lord will not be displeased with me. Lord have mercy!
In Pennsylvania, the heart of the OCA in a couple of ways, there are nice Slavic Orthodox who don't have a chip on their shoulder so if one day I go Greek Catholic (I don't rule it out), for Saturday Vespers they're an option. They don't need to know my life story. Unlatinized is great. So is latinized. I don't miss being outside the church.
I am sure you know that the group at St. F and St. G were mostly converts...those raised in Orthodoxy in the so-called modernist jurisdictions are pretty comfortable with having ecumenical conversations with me. In dealing with Old Calendarists I tend to listen more than talk and try to learn from them rather then have discussions of history and theology--it usually doesn't end well. I tend to have an openness to anyone's spiritual journey and have learned to stay away from polemics--although I have to check myself sometimes.
"I am sure you know that the group at St. F and St. G were mostly converts..." Didn't know that about St. F as I've never been to that state; knew that about St. G, a convert showplace. That explains the attitude. My first traditional Catholic liturgy, nearly 30 years ago, was Ukrainian so naturally I loved Byzantium. Got to give Byzantium credit: Orthodox like those converts, ROCOR, the Old Calendarists, and the Orthodox wannabes in our church who want us to dump our doctrine, then join the other side. They turned me against them. Still a supporter of the rite but for the foreseeable future, the traditional Roman Rite is home again.
I don't know if you remember me over at the Byzcath forum, but I think you used to go over there and post.
I did, sporadically, starting more than 10 years ago as part of my long walk back to the church. Ironically, this year I was kicked off for defending the church; they're Orthodox wannabes.
Oh, that explains your POV. Well, I went through a great struggle for my Eastern identity which is reflected in my posts at the Byzcath forum over the years. I am now only focused on trying to grow where I am planted. It is not easy still, but I pray to try to overcome my doubts. I am glad you have found an ecclesial place to lay your head, John.
"Well, I went through a great struggle for my Eastern identity." Nothing wrong with that and it's confusing. You have the Scylla of being misunderstood or mistreated by Roman Riters, and the Charybdis of the Orthodox, with their appeal of "owning" the tradition and the appeal to pride, going from alleged second-class treatment under Rome to proclaiming that Byzantium IS the church. I couldn't buy that last bit.
I was suspended a couple times, but it was only due to trying to work out my ecclesial identity out on the forum--should have just gone to my Father Confessor. I understand their context and it is definitely ByzaDox--which I respect, that is why I am content to find other forums to try to learn from and discuss issues when I know it is not appropriate on the Byzcath forum. Can't believe I have been going there since the late 90's along with the very missed Byzantines.net discussion forum:(
I was on Byzantines.net too. One of my complaints about byzcath is although it runs a disclaimer, the domain name leads you to think it's a Catholic forum when it's not. I'd never send an inquirer about Catholicism there. The ByzaDox ("Orthodox in communion with Rome," OicwRs) have been a bane of my existence. In my decade-plus walk back to the church, as part of my attempt to come back I made friends with a few convert Greek Catholics, one in person; almost all left the church because they bought the online party line: "Byzantium IS the church; Greek Catholics should be working to change Catholic doctrine so Catholics can join the true faith." And the few who stay are dissenters that way. They all drank the Kool-Aid, egged on by "ecumenical" Orthodox who seem nice at first because they recognize our sacraments; all fueled by a misreading of Vatican II on ecumenism, just like Western Catholic liberals. If you love Byzantium, and one should, it's easy to fall into.
That is the pitfall me and my friends fell into which led us to move to EO, and the de-latinization process of Father R. at St. C's in D.--in a way we felt why not join EO since we were essentially heading in that direction anyway at St. C's? Coming back into the BCC and becoming a schismatic from the Orthodox was the hardest decision of my life and nearly led me to just give up on faith altogether, but I pushed through and feel at home again after being back these several years. I do respect those who come back and forth, in fact Father R. told us in the Old Country Greek Catholic priest's wives would go to the Orthodox priest for confession and vice versa and that it was normal for Orthodox to attend GC churches and for GC's to attend Orthodox Churches without hangups over it.
To be clear, I DON'T believe unlatinized = dissenter/Orthodox wannabe. In fact I think the dissenters/wannabes HURT sincere unlatinized Catholics. If Fr. R. was properly teaching St. C's the reasons for the changes, then no problem. If he was preaching the byzcath line, no go. I've heard the "back and forth" line from dissenting Greek Catholics so I take it with three grains of salt. Such things happen in Syria; in Eastern Europe probably not so much. I met a Romanian family, originally Greek Catholic, who went Roman Rite rather than go Orthodox when the Communists told them to. The Ukrainians I knew 30 years ago would have wanted to beat the snot out of the ByzaDox (OicwRs); they chose exile over schism.
Father R. was a good priest and I left St. C's before he left there, but he sincerely wanted to restore our authentic traditions and I used to listen to all his apologetics tapes which my godmother let me borrow and he was definitely faithful to Rome--we just felt that we needed to go further which is why we started going out to St. F and St. G. Actually, I received the Mysteries of Initiation from Father R. and my sponsors really influenced me to move to the EO since they drilled into my head the superiority of the Orthodox Church--As a new Byzantine Catholic I was really a sponge and followed their lead, and unfortunately leaving the BCC for the Orthodox right after being baptized and chrismated left me confused about my ecclesial identity for years; but I must say my journey into the Orthodox Church exposed me to wonderful priests and laity and experiences I will never forget at St. H's in I. in which I truly felt the power of Orthodoxy...but again I had to return home.
"He was definitely faithful to Rome--we just felt that we needed to go further which is why we started going out to St. F and St. G." Doing that with the Orthodox is often a good thing if being unlatinized is your calling. Might have worked if you found some nice Slavs rather than those anti-Catholic converts. "They drilled into my head the superiority of the Orthodox Church." They'd taken the short ride from loving Byzantium to worshipping Byzantium.
When I left St. C's I moved where there was no Byzantine Catholic parish, so I became good friends with the Orthodox priest and eventually became a catechumen and a year later I gave a life-confession and was Chrismated. After years of theological reflection and working with a spiritual director I made the move back to the Ruthenian Church.
Yeah, that's a rough row to hoe, being called to be Eastern but having no Eastern Catholic priest or parish. Non-communing with the Orthodox is great, IF you know what's what. People new to Byzantium really don't so they switch. I was going to say, I'm not saying to ignore the Orthodox, pretending they don't exist and that the Catholic churches are all there is to Byzantium; that would be foolish. I've seen some Catholics approach it like that. But the other extreme seems pervasive online. Convert Orthodoxy is Protestants with a liturgical fetish who've kept their anti-Catholicism.
My problem was this endless search to find the most Orthodox pristine Apostolic Church and one can only be baptized and chrismated so many times when it becomes ludicrous. I am glad I never went off the rockers and hopped from Apostolic Church to Apostolic Church...there seems to be an idolatry of behind our endless search to find the most pure, most authentic, and most Orthodox Church at the expense of our sanity. Some people in Eastern forums have literally went Prot, Latin Catholic, Eastern Catholic, New Calendar Orthodox, Old Calendar Orthodox, Coptic and so on--one Church right after the other. I had to give up on that and throw in my cards. Heck who knows maybe only the Coptic Christians will only make it heaven, but I can't jump ship anymore--its not healthy for me spiritually or mentally. I'm growing where I'm planted and that is that.
Yes, idolatry including a certain kind of idolatry, spiritual pride. Those train wrecks are all over the Internet; often, I've liked the guy later as an agnostic burnout far more than when he was trying to be Orthodox. The pristine apostolic church is the one that that has consistently taught and practiced: God, Christ, Trinity, hypostatic union, Mother of God, bishops, the Mass, and the option of using images. That means the Catholic Church, which INCLUDES the East. I'm glad most of my religious changes were 20 years ago and I understand my problems that caused them.
You are right about that. I remember having conversations with then Bishop Gregory of ROAC--thank God I never jumped into that ship. What a devastated vineyard. One thinks that if it has all the trappings of the Eastern Church that it is safe...oh no! There are so many Catholic and Orthodox cults out there that are very predatory and finding a healthy jurisdiction or parish for that matter is a challenge. I had years ago contemplated returning to the Episcopal Church since I had loved belonging to that Church growing up, but left when I decided to become a Church history book worm in my early 20's which set me on course to make the long journey through researching if there was a Church which really was the authentic Church Our Lord founded, and the rest is history. I don't regret leaving TEC but in a sense there is still within me a certain fondness for my memories at St. K's Episcopal. They were and are still good people and in spite of the rabid liberalism in that denomination I will always treasure my experiences there.
An online then-friend, I forget what church he was born into, jumped from Ukrainian Catholic to fetishizing ROCOR to ROAC. Chilling. It took me a long time to sort out my Episcopal background too; the inhospitable mess that Vatican II made of the Catholic Church made it much harder. The charming little Episcopal church with the cool traditional liturgy and clubby social life vs. the Novus Ordo Mass barn. Semi-congregationalism can be good, a hedge against liberalism... as long as you remain in the universal church.
St. K's Episcopal, a traditional wooden church with a high altar, sung Eucharist, great organ music and stained glass, always prided itself on being more catholic than Holy Name, the RCC church in town. We always loved it when Catholics would visit they would want to sit for hours in the catholic beauty of our parish. As a Byzantine Catholic I am satisfied with our Church as long as I don't get caught up in liturgy wars and beef over ecclesio-politics. We are all just trying to make it to heaven and right now Lord help me I hope to one day see Our Lord's face when I leave this earthly home.
That sort of thing taught me traditional Catholic practice when the official church wanted nothing to do with it. As I say, I keep my nose in my missal and stay out of diocesan and parish politics.

The doyen of OicwRs, Stuart Koehl, on the original post, regarding St. Josaphat:
It was a nasty time in a rough neighborhood. In the era of cujus regio ejus religio, coercion, persecution, forced conversion, brutality and atrocity were the rule of the day, and practiced by EVERYONE--Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant alike. In looking at this period, the best thing to do is follow the advice of Christ: Let the dead bury the dead.
The trouble with that line is it is exactly like Catholic liberals and mainline Protestants: never mind either side's witnesses; let's create a new church.
You always were an historically illiterate jerk, John. Get a new pony--this one's trick has played out.
I'm only interested in stopping (new) Byzantine Catholics from dissenting from or leaving the church based on your bad example and counsel. If one person stays in the mind and heart of the church, then it's worth it, so bring it on.

Anyway, attitudes like yours are largely why I haven't set foot in any kind of Eastern church for three years. Congratulations.

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