Thursday, June 25, 2015

Another one bags Byzantium. Not so fast...


Former archdiocesan cathedral musical director: Why I'm leaving the Greek Orthodox Church. Sounds promising. By the way, born Orthodox, don't panic. Regular readers know my line: we're not trying to break you up; we want to bring you all into the church at once and leave your rite alone.
My experience of church is beginning to take a different shape, however, after several years of difficult and painful discernment. I am now leaving the Greek Orthodox Church, and continuing to live out my Christianity as an Anglican, in the Episcopal Church in the United States.
Uh oh. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? These days that's usually what this means. (Hint: World War G.) There are principled people, even ex-Catholics, I respect who join things such as the Episcopal Church; Fr. Jonathan Mitchican, for example. True believers in the English "Reformation" and Elizabethan Settlement. More normally it's a few divorced and remarried boomers (younger people don't go to church) and fewer homosexual ones who've rewritten their principles to suit their circumstances, just like Henry VIII. A church musician, someone in the arts? Not a knock on all such (I love their work), but you know what I mean.
I grew up in a loving parish in North Carolina, where I assumed duties as church organist at the age of 13. I had taken piano lessons and played by ear, so I eagerly jumped into the complex world of Greek Orthodox choirs, replete with arguments over composers that were too “modern”, the appropriateness of choral music versus Byzantine chant, the use of the organ, and more. I attended regional choir conferences, collected scores, and purchased almost every CD of Greek Orthodox music on the market.
Took me a minute to realize Gus Chrysson isn't a convert or a second-generation one (maybe a Swede from Minnesota) but an ethnic Greek (Constantine is shortened to Gus for some reason). His picture confirms it.
During the length of my tenure, I experienced the same, persistent feeling of underlying panic in church that had begun when I was a teenager and had come out of the closet.
I called it. The bad kind of assimilation, nothing theologically profound. Most Orthodox in America leave by the third generation just because they're not really Greek, etc., anymore (American Eastern-rite Catholics lose their people for the same reason), and as a Catholic friend told me, anybody who's really spiritual and/or fairly intelligent sees through the ethnocentrism masquerading as a faith.

Some will ask if these stories signal the American mainstream turning on the Orthodox like the old Protestant one understandably never really liked or fully trusted Catholics. I predict no. The Orthodox are and will remain too small for that. Most American Orthodoxy is Greek Orthodoxy, and that's largely Greek immigration. American Protestants were afraid of us partly because there were so many of us. By 1960, parts of the country had become Catholic. Vatican II, the Pill, and the Sixties in general did what many American Protestants wanted: assimilating the country's huge Catholic minority.

Then there's the matter of, yes, even the outwardly conservative Orthodox going with the flow on homosexuality as they have long done on divorce-and-remarriage and now do on contraception, on both of which they now sound just like Protestants.
Several progressive priests encouraged me to stay on board and fight from within.
Maybe even doing it because of their anti-Westernism, namely, to spite us Catholics. Another reason the American mainstream has given them a free pass. St. Vladimir's Seminary or Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology 20 years from now: "As part of the church's patristic renewal and gradual liberation from Western captivity, leading scholars now say the mind of the Fathers says..."

My prediction: their first public gay weddings will be attempts by desperate clergy to keep some ethnics from leaving.

43 comments:

  1. Your neurosis around Orthodoxy is fascinating John.

    Your theological, linguistic and historical illiteracy, not so much.

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  2. If Roman Catholics take such pride in their official stance on sexual morality and all those things why do they not cringe with embarrassment when their popes embrace Anglican archbishops as equals? I've seen photos of Francis meeting Lutheran clergywomen in St Peter's Square with the now-too-familiar smile on his face. Does the leader of your church have no spine?

    My prediction: Roman Catholics will be ordaining women within twenty years. I mean if Leo XIII can call on the French to "rally to the Republic," after a century of opposition to the Revolution, I see no tangible difference in ordaining women.

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    1. I understand of course, but while those ecumenical gestures are sometimes embarrassing, they're not actual teaching on faith or morals. Plus, as I wrote when the Church of England voted to have women bishops, maybe a smile and saying "join me in spreading the gospel" is the best way to bring them into the church.

      Not only is the ordination of women impossible, but what little enthusiasm there is for it among Catholics is waning as the old liberals die and the young mostly don't go to church. And no, supporting it wouldn't bring them back: witness the Episcopal Church and the Church of England. No, the church's people are becoming more conservative.

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    2. But how is an "ecumenical gesture" separate from doctrine? How is the pope giving the archbishop of Canterbury a pectoral cross not symbolic of a rejection of Apostolicae Curae, the contents of which we are led to believe is still official? How is Rome's decision not to cut all ties with the Anglican Communion over its increasingly apostate praxis not symbolic of indifferentism or tacit endorsement? You may argue that Rome is special because of its decision not to ordain women, or to countenance artificial contraception (at least at the top), but to me all mainstream churches are exactly alike. There is no "true church" anymore. Christianity has been reduced to a conscious choice between competing mainstream liberalisms, doomed to be cast down by God as apostates all; or weird fringe renegade groups, which themselves are doomed to oblivion by the fact of their small numbers, limited reach and other things.

      It seems to me that Rome, especially Rome, has a "fingers in every pie" syndrome. The climate change encyclical and the pontificate of pope Francis shew that most clearly.

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    3. "I understand of course, but while those ecumenical gestures are sometimes embarrassing, they're not actual teaching on faith or morals."

      More than embarrassment, John. They are distortions of the praxis of the ancient Church and as such are reprehensible to the Orthodox Church and go far in losing many faithful of the Latin Church to the heresy of indifferentism. As long as you retreat into the comfortable affirmation that these actions are not an "actual teaching on faith and morals," you turn your own traditional ecclesial sensibilities into a "let's play high church and live in 1950s style" while giving the Church to the heretics. As you can see, this is just a theological variation of what you accuse Rod Dreher of espousing in relation to the culture.

      One must observe and learn from the Orthodox Church about how to take a stand against every deviation from the ancient Church. Listening to modern Rome too often leads to impotency in the face of creeping secularism and heresy through the repetition of affirmations of doctrinal purity, which forgets that the Holy Fathers wisely saw a close relationship between what one believes and how one acts - a principle still preserved in Orthodox Christianity.

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    4. More than embarrassment, John. They are distortions of the praxis of the ancient Church...

      And divorce-and-remarriage ("sometimes adultery is OK") and contraception aren't? That's a laugh.

      As long as you retreat...

      Sure, I see the parallel, but no, because it's my own culture and our vision of the church includes you while yours doesn't include us.

      The problem isn't with withdrawing from the larger culture; it's with withdrawing from the church in order to worship a culture including a religious culture. Even the Fathers can become idols. I don't think what I'm doing IS the church.

      One must observe and learn from the Orthodox Church...

      I have an open mind. I observe and learn from lots of people, from libertarians to misogynist pickup-artist instructors, some very different from me and wrong in some ways, so of course I do from the estranged Catholics of the East. Semi-congregationalism and folk religion as a hedge against liberalism; that's great. I have no longing for "Byzantium" myself but I've learned a lot from it and have some good memories. It has potential to do so much good in the Catholic Church.

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    5. Good to hear from you again, Patrick. For some reason Blogger delays showing me your comments plus it doesn't give an e-mail alert like it normally does.

      Well put and believe me, I know how you feel. It's why, after a three-year phase trying to abuse the Christian East to be privately traditional and impress liberals at the same time, I left the church 20 years ago; Fr. Seraphim (Rose)'s traditionalism seemed to have "bite" plus the best insights from the counterculture. But his Byzantium's only an estranged part of the church, not the church.

      Modern "Rome," Vatican II Catholicism, is contradictory and an embarrassment for exactly the reasons you say. As the Anti-Gnostic says, our churchmen are still hitching their wagons to social democracy and '60s-style ecumenism, all part of Catholics' love of '50s-style "progressivism" that caused them to have Vatican II. But Western Catholicism is still part of the church: all of its teachings (the magisterium) and traditional liturgies are true, and ritually it's my home. Me? Functionally separate myself and "live in the '50s" but remain part of the universal church with the cloud of witnesses past and present from the apostles and Fathers to St. Thomas Aquinas to St. Francis to Francisco Franco to Dorothy Day to Jean Vanier.

      Nobody, whether a vision of an angel or apostle (Galatians 1:8), or, as one story has it about one recent revert to Eastern Orthodoxy, the late Fr. Matthew Baker (who died and nearly killed his children because of his terrible judgment, driving in a snowstorm when he should have just canceled the church service), can convince me to leave the church again. I might even tell bwoo-I'm-a-ghost Fr. Matthew, "Get thee behind me, Satan." Non-contradiction.

      Which is why I don't agree with your conclusion that there is no true church anymore. Why I hate the expression "post-Christian," for example. That would logically only leave two destinations, Judaism or nihilism.

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  3. "Maybe even doing it because of their anti-Westernism, namely, to spite us Catholics."

    Clergy of any Church who support the homosexual agenda do so because they have conformed their faith and life to the world and not to the traditional moral principles of Christianity, not because they want to gouge other Christians. In fact, such tit-for-tat about important moral and theological issues is more the province of the blogosphere than real life.

    "Another reason the American mainstream has given them a free pass."

    It is more likely that the American mainstream gives Orthodoxy a pass because most Americans are unaware of her existence and/or beliefs. And the ones who do know some about Orthodoxy believe that she is a form of "Catholicism without the Pope" - hardly grounds for embracing her for being non-Catholic.

    However, it is interesting to note that given the current leftist direction in Rome, Orthodoxy's lack of a Pope may technically make her more of a threat to the American mainstream than Catholicism.

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    1. You make the good point that the homosexualist Orthodox priests no more speak for Orthodoxy than such in the church speak for Catholicism. But again, Orthodoxy's sold out on divorce-and-remarriage and, in modern times, contraception, so for how much longer will that be true of Orthodoxy?

      My guess based on their theological chattering class is American Orthodox will cave on women deacons first, then gay marriage.

      It is more likely that the American mainstream gives Orthodoxy a pass because most Americans are unaware of her existence and/or beliefs. And the ones who do know some about Orthodoxy believe that she is a form of "Catholicism without the Pope" — hardly grounds for embracing her for being non-Catholic.

      True and true: few have heard of it and it is Catholicism without the Pope. But educated American and British Protestants have long given the Orthodox a free pass because it's out of the church. Plus it's still so Catholic that their high churchmen like hanging around it to push their own silly claim of being Catholic without the Pope.

      However, it is interesting to note that given the current leftist direction in Rome, Orthodoxy's lack of a Pope may technically make her more of a threat to the American mainstream than Catholicism.

      Except it's obviously not. Either it fits into American denominationalism as the Greek etc. church or it's boutique religion, denominationalism for a certain class, like Rod Dreher's escapist "let's play high church and live in style," while handing over the country to the other side in the culture war. Greek-Americans, for example, aren't exactly stalwarts in the culture war, and I don't buy the "we're too spiritual" excuse.

      On paper, "Byzantium" has a lot of potential in America. In its Catholic forms, both unlatinized and non-Novus Ordo latinized, I want it to succeed, even replacing the Novus Ordo here. Even if it eclipsed us traditionalists, as long as it's sound. Small-o orthodoxy and the same sacramental grace and numinosity as the Tridentine Mass but with some earth-mother granola appeal, like the romanticism of "Little House on the Prairie" in the '70s, and even married priests. Great! But in America it just doesn't thrive. (Its monasticism has mostly failed here.) The real members leave by the third generation or, in schismatic form, it becomes a convert cult, at least minimally harmful because it remains small; it's self-limiting and probably won't last long among the converts' kids.

      Regular readers know I'm no ultramontanist; such is not synonymous with Catholicism, even/especially traditional Catholicism. I give credit where it's due: Orthodox and Anglo-Catholic grassroots traditionalism, decentralized, even semi-congregationalist, can be a hedge against liberalism as you suggest. We can learn a lot from that. That and the appealing stuff I described above ("the best of traditionalism without our baggage") are why/how I talked myself out of the church 20 years ago. But there's only one church, the Pope defends all its essentials, and outside the church those good things I described become idols.

      We are far more likely to see the Greek Orthodox Church in America become like Episcopalianism than to see any meaningful resistance from it to the ascending culture in America.

      As you know, if it were up to me, I'd do anything to end this schism except give up our doctrine. Married priests in America? Canonizing your own saints rather than Rome doing it? A patriarch for the Ukraine? "You've got it." You'd have a bonafide offer from me.

      But the Byzantine Rite would still fade away in America.

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  4. "My prediction: their first public gay weddings will be attempts by desperate clergy to keep some ethnics from leaving."

    Don't forget - Orthodox Christians are canonically bound by the ancient canonical tradition of the Church, Orthodox Bishops don't permit even a fraction of the foolishness of the Latin Church, and Orthodox priests are expected to guard the chalice against sacrilege (didn't Mr. Crysson mention that he was recently excommunicated by an Orthodox priest for his moral deviations?). This is a Church in which active homosexuals like Chrysson feel uncomfortable and is a Church that is far from fulfilling your prophecy.

    . . .

    Meanwhile, the Latin Church has stated in an official document that,

    "Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing them a place of fellowship in our communities? Oftentimes, they want to encounter a Church which offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of this, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?" (Mid-term Relatio for Synod 2014, art. 50).

    My prediction: Upon visiting a mainstream Roman Catholic church, Gus Chrysson will find much approval for his immoral lifestyle, will remain very uncomfortable when visiting an Orthodox Church, and will rhetorically ask Orthodox Christians why they cannot be a modern as Rome on this point.

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    1. Don't forget — Orthodox Christians are canonically bound by the ancient canonical tradition of the Church, Orthodox Bishops don't permit even a fraction of the foolishness of the Latin Church, and Orthodox priests are expected to guard the chalice against sacrilege (didn't Mr. Crysson mention that he was recently excommunicated by an Orthodox priest for his moral deviations?). This is a Church in which active homosexuals like Chrysson feel uncomfortable and is a Church that is far from fulfilling your prophecy.

      True inasmuch as it's still Catholic (bishops, the Mass, traditional liturgy, and famously culturally conservative, like the wonderful yiayias Athenos Yogurt used to make fun of), but it has sold out on divorce-and-remarriage and contraception, the latter on an official level not at all comparable to dissenting Catholics.

      That "ancient canonical tradition" is an outdated, unenforceable junkpile so in practice it's whatever the bishop or parish priest feels like doing that day. Or it becomes Talmudic, one oral tradition canceling out another.

      Meanwhile, the Latin Church has stated in an official document that...

      Maybe infelicitous but not heretical. In short, what conservative Protestants taught me 40 years ago: don't pick on them; feel bad for them because they have a problem.

      My prediction: Upon visiting a mainstream Roman Catholic church, Gus Chrysson will find much approval for his immoral lifestyle...

      I remember the American Catholic Church in the '80s; it stunk pretty much as you describe, and you have far better worship services. But the church has fulfilled the Great Commission: certainly in the Internet age, just about every American has some idea what the church teaches (that and the church used to be so big in parts of the country), which is why the media pick on it so much.

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    2. "I remember the American Catholic Church in the '80s; it stunk pretty much as you describe"

      And now, judging from the Mid-term Relatio of Synod 2014, the rot has reached the Vatican.

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    3. The second millennium of Latin Christianity, the catechism and more, stands. You're defending a cult that confuses its culture with the church. No, thanks.

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  5. Thanks for linking Gus Chrysson's article on your blog, John. It expresses in much more potent clarity what I have long said about the wide divergence between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. From reading this article and its comments, the reader learns that Orthodox priests are expected to "guard the chalice" from profanation, Orthodox Christians are forbidden to marry non-Christians, sacraments and sacramental rites are limited to members of the Orthodox Church, and that the secular world and its proponents feel uncomfortable in Orthodox parishes (e.g. Chrysson's recounting of his feelings inside an Orthodox church). The informed reader cannot help but notice that each of these points are officially contradicted by the Roman Catholic Church, but are the reflection of the preservation of the spirit and form of the ancient Church in the Orthodox Church.

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    1. The informed reader cannot help but notice that each of these points is officially contradicted by the Roman Catholic Church.

      Of course our priests are expected to guard the chalice too. The group that defined transubstantiation can do no less. The catechism can explain the rest.

      Divorce-and-remarriage and contraception make hash of your claim to be the true church.

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  6. "True inasmuch as it's still Catholic (bishops, the Mass, traditional liturgy, and famously culturally conservative, like the wonderful yiayias Athenos Yogurt used to make fun of), but it has sold out on divorce-and-remarriage and contraception, the latter on an official level not at all comparable to dissenting Catholics."

    Point out to me the official doctrinal and/or canonical changes that have approved contraception in Orthodoxy. Unless you can do this, moral deviation on this point in Orthodoxy remains dissent. General consensus cannot bind a Church that is governed by Holy Tradition expressed in definite forms of doctrinal and canonical legislation. To argue otherwise, is epistemologically inaccurate.

    "That 'ancient canonical tradition' is an outdated, unenforceable junkpile so in practice it's whatever the bishop or parish priest feels like doing that day. Or it becomes Talmudic, one oral tradition canceling out another."

    The Holy Fathers considered the holy canons to be inspired by God and unalterable - a position repeated to this day by many bishops of the Orthodox Church. Your attitude toward the ancient Church is incongruent with your claim to part of its continuation.

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    1. Good point: the Orthodox have never defined anything un-Catholic. Which is why born or never-Catholic Orthodox get the benefit of the doubt as estranged Catholics. There's no such thing as the Orthodox Church. It's a loose confederation actually little to do with each other. Yet what do your patriarchates and all your immigrant churches in America agree on regarding contraception? It sure isn't the true faith on this matter.

      The Holy Fathers considered the holy canons to be inspired by God and unalterable — a position repeated to this day by many bishops of the Orthodox Church. Your attitude toward the ancient Church is incongruent with your claim to part of its continuation.

      The Fathers and canons, which every sane person knows are just rules, aren't infallible; the church is.

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    2. "The Fathers and canons, which every sane person knows are just rules, aren't infallible; the church is."

      It is true that the Church of the first millennium held a higher view of Church infallibility than does the modern Roman Catholic Church. Canonical legislation, as an expression of the Church's authority, was often viewed by the Holy Fathers as unalterable (this is why there are not periodic revisions to canon law in the Orthodox Church, unlike in the Latin Church). I'm not sure how this can be denied by an informed person.

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    3. "There's no such thing as the Orthodox Church. It's a loose confederation actually little to do with each other."

      If this were true, it would be impossible to interact with the beliefs of an entity called, "Eastern Orthodoxy," rather we would have to interact separately with the beliefs of the different Orthodox Churches. Each time you interact with the beliefs of "the Orthodox Church," as one entity you are affirming a unity of faith.

      Furthermore, if Orthodox bishops are valid bishops, they are an icon of the one shepherd, Jesus Christ. Can one be a valid bishop if they do not partake of the charism of Christ's one headship? And if they partake of Christ's one headship, they cannot form ontologically distinct churches. The very fact of their episcopal validity unites their episcopacy as one expression of the one headship of Jesus Christ.

      And, of course, we know that the Orthodox Church shares a common Worship and Canonical tradition.

      So much for the "loose confederation of churches."

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    4. If they were the true church they wouldn't be so stupid as to exclude the second millennium of Latin Christianity for political and cultural reasons. Nor would they hold to something as idiotic as "sometimes adultery is OK" or, now, "contraception in marriage is fine; the Protestants are right and the ancient church was wrong."

      Been there, done that, got the icons. I'm not buying.

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    5. "If they were the true church they wouldn't be so stupid as to exclude the second millennium of Latin Christianity for political and cultural reasons."

      Doctrines developed from contested opinions in the Latin Church (e.g. the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility) in the second millennium. Certainly, this would count as an exclusion for reasons of faith since this form of doctrinal development is condemned as heretical in Orthodoxy.

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    6. Furthermore, if Orthodox bishops are valid bishops, they are an icon of the one shepherd, Jesus Christ. Can one be a valid bishop if they do not partake of the charism of Christ's one headship? And if they partake of Christ's one headship, they cannot form ontologically distinct churches. The very fact of their episcopal validity unites their episcopacy as one expression of the one headship of Jesus Christ.

      So some Orthodox in good standing see our bishops as frauds for being outside the church. In contrast our vision includes you, even as you are, in schism. Because most of your bishops aren't ex-Catholics; they're acting in good faith. And you've never dogmatized anything un-Catholic. There is a hardline Catholic opinion, like the one about non-Catholics going to hell, that parallels your hardliners. That opinion is even though your bishops are real bishops so they and your priests truly celebrate Mass, they don't receive grace from that. We don't have to believe that. Somebody never Catholic acting in good faith probably does receive grace, though not as much as somebody in the church.

      By the way, being Catholic doesn't mean you have to believe the Greek Catholics are perfect so the Orthodox must adopt all their practices.

      And, of course, we know that the Orthodox Church shares a common Worship and Canonical tradition.

      You just let the cat out of the bag: your side thinks Byzantium IS the church. No.

      So Mary's all-holy and the church is infallible, its doctrine irreformable, including when it speaks through the Pope's office. No problem.

      The Catholic Church has fulfilled the Great Commission, including but not being limited to your native or acquired culture. You belong to a sect really based in Eastern Europe that's sold out on divorce-and-remarriage and contraception.

      Go preach somewhere else.

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    7. In relation to the Chrysson situation, observe how mainstream Catholicism handles homosexuality vis-à-vis liturgical musicians in churches:

      When driving today, I tuned into the Catholic Channel on SiriusXM and listened to the “Busted Halo Show” host, Fr. Dave Dwyer, respond to callers regarding the recent Supreme Court decision. One caller was concerned that some cantors at her parish were posting support of the decision on their Facebook pages. Fr. Dyer quickly told her that it would be like “the Gestapo” to remove such liturgical ministers from parish ministry and, in response to the caller’s statement that such people should be denied Holy Communion, Fr. Dyer informed her that nobody is turned away from Holy Communion because the priest “cannot know people’s hearts” (the padre didn’t even have a concept of “guarding the chalice” – even the lax Orthodox priests know this concept).

      While Chrysson mentioned how some heretical Orthodox priests made provision for him, Fr. Dwyer made his coddling quite public. Quite the contrast with Mr. Chrysson’s experience, eh? Methinks Mr. Chrysson would be more at home in the Roman Catholic Church than the Orthodox Church. It is quite interesting that Chrysson would “bag Byzantium,” but few of his fellow travelers “bag Rome” – maybe the mainstream, Fr. Dwyer, tells us why.

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    8. ...how mainstream Catholicism handles homosexuality vis-à-vis liturgical musicians in churches.

      Mainstream as in not actually following Catholicism or do you mean real Catholicism?

      Fr. Dwyer quickly told her that it would be like “the Gestapo” to remove such liturgical ministers from parish ministry and, in response to the caller’s statement that such people should be denied Holy Communion, Fr. Dwyer informed her that nobody is turned away from Holy Communion because the priest “cannot know people’s hearts” (the padre didn’t even have a concept of “guarding the chalice” – even the lax Orthodox priests know this concept).

      I'm not offended. At face value, Fr. Dwyer is right. Here's how we Catholics guard the chalice. The church teaches that you must tell God in the Sacrament of Confession every action of yours that involves grave matter (anything on your conscience, in case it's grave matter), meaning it might be a mortal sin (if you had sufficient reflection and full consent of the will). If you believe you might be in mortal sin, you don't go to Communion. We aren't a cult trying to push people around. We simply teach the truth.

      Again, divorce-and-remarriage and contraception are reasons why I don't take an exclusive Orthodox claim of guarding the chalice seriously. And why Byzantium? Why not one of the Oriental churches? You and they have mutually exclusive true-church claims against each other too.

      Again: And, of course, we know that the Orthodox Church shares a common Worship and Canonical tradition.

      You've confused a rite with the whole church; that's idol worship in my book. That, divorce-and-remarriage and contraception say this is an estranged part of the church that needs to come back, not the church.

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    9. "So Mary's all-holy and the church is infallible, its doctrine irreformable, including when it speaks through the Pope's office. No problem."

      If Mary’s holiness is equivalent to the Immaculate Conception* and the Church’s infallibility leads logically to the infallibility of the pope, the Church could never tolerate the rejection of these teachings (once contested opinions) without subsequently tolerating a grave theological attack on the Mother of God, and the Church, herself – such toleration has never been allowed by the Church. However, rejection of the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility was tolerated for centuries among churchmen in good standing, thus demonstrating an utter lack of identity between these developed teachings and the ancient teachings of Mary’s holiness and the Church’s infallibility.

      Furthermore, if contested theological opinions, once condemned by saints and eminent theologians of the West, may over time become dogmas of the Faith, what (besides church politics) keeps the ordination of women and same-sex marriage from following a similar trajectory? Once the principle of theological developments from contested and opposed opinions are introduced into the Church’s dogmatic tradition, there is, in principle, no limitation to how this principle may be applied in the hands of innovators. Rather than being fearful of disobedient Greek Orthodox priests officiating same-sex weddings, be leery of how the historical precedent of the theological developments of the Latin Church may be used to enshrine such abominations in Roman Catholic doctrine.
      Either the Faith that we teach today to our children and grandchildren is immutable and stands in condemnation of all innovative opinions or our understanding of the Faith is in constant flux and must, logically, respect the innovations of today for they may become the dogmas of tomorrow. Orthodoxy clearly holds the first position as a matter of fundamental principle – can Catholicism say the same?

      *In addition to the well-established difficulties that Orthodoxy has with the historical development of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the Orthodox Church maintains that the Immaculate Conception violates the soteriology of St. Paul in Romans chapters 3 and 5. In the Book of Romans, St. Paul often argues for the universality of Christ’s Redemption upon the basis of the universal sinfulness of humanity (cf. Romans 3:23-24; and Romans 5:18-19). It begs to reason that if the Immaculate Conception is true, and all have not sinned and Adam’s fall did not lead to universal transgression, according to St. Paul, Christ’s redemption would not make all righteous (Romans 5:19), nor would all be justified by God’s free gift of grace (Romans 3:24). St. Paul’s soteriological discourses do not make it possible for one to limit the “all” who have sinned and fallen, without subsequently limiting the “all” who have been redeemed, because the Apostle explicitly identifies the universal group of sinners with the universal company of the redeemed in Romans chapters 3 and 5. Any attempt to create a two-tiered redemption, whereby the Holy Theotokos is redeemed without inheriting Adam’s transgression is as foreign to St. Paul as it was to the ancient Church and many in the medieval Latin Church.

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    10. "Mainstream as in not actually following Catholicism or do you mean real Catholicism?"

      I mean, normative Catholicism in union with Pope Francis.

      "I'm not offended. At face value, Fr. Dwyer is right."

      I agree that Fr. Dwyer is a faithful representative of faithful mainstream Catholicism. However, you cannot deny that this new consensus on guarding the chalice has moved beyond the praxis of the ancient Church, in which "excommunication" from the chalice was part of the canonical tradition. Whatever you think about other aspects of Orthodoxy, she stands as a remarkable witness to patristic praxis on guarding the holy chalice of Christ. While it is easy to appeal to the old retorts about remarriage (a pre-Schism and approved practice) and contraception (unofficial confusion that binds nobody), it cannot be denied that Orthodoxy stands as a witness to the ancient Church, while the Latin Church has taken a path of innovation that makes the patristically-minded Christian feel cold and uncomfortable.

      "You've confused a rite with the whole church; that's idol worship in my book."

      If you don't share a commonality of Faith and approved praxis, you aren't part of one Church. It's not my fault that the Patriarchate of Rome removed the Western tradition from the orbit of ancient Christianity. I am only reporting the effects of the Western changes, which unfortunately left “Byzantium” as the last remnant of patristic Christianity, not arguing for complete uniformity as a matter of principle, for such would truly be unCatholic.

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    11. I mean, normative Catholicism in union with Pope Francis. ... I agree that Fr. Dwyer is a faithful representative of faithful mainstream Catholicism.

      "Normative" and "faithful mainstream Catholicism" could mean the "Survey Says" game the liberal media of Protestant America play, in which they gather ordinary Catholics, of course passively "in union with Pope Francis," who agree with mainstream society vs. the teachings of the church, as if we could change those teachings by vote like mainline Protestants or by papal decree. Like if someone asked Arianna Huffington or even Vassula Rydén to speak for Orthodoxy. Or "normative" etc. could mean the teachings of the church.

      However, you cannot deny that this new consensus on guarding the chalice has moved beyond the praxis of the ancient Church, in which "excommunication" from the chalice was part of the canonical tradition.

      Of course I disagree with you. Like I said, putting aside divorce-and-remarriage and contraception for the moment (you get it: I don't accept your true-church claim), both sides essentially say the same thing about being prepared for the Eucharist: if you are really in sin, don't receive. If that's your problem, you need the Sacrament of Confession first. (Real Orthodox, in "the old country," just like old-school Latin Catholics such as in the Middle Ages, only receive a few times a year, never without absolution beforehand.) Orthodoxy only stands as a witness to the ancient church inasmuch as it's still Catholic like us.

      Abuses in the Latin Church ("innovation") aren't Latin Christianity any more than the homosexualist Orthodox priests Gus Chrysson knows are Byzantine Christianity. At least for now, while Orthodoxy remains Catholic on that matter and benefits from conservative Eastern European cultures.

      If you don't share a commonality of Faith and approved praxis, you aren't part of one Church.

      True if, as in Catholicism, that praxis includes many rites and cultures. I won't lie of course: 98% of Catholics are Roman Rite, but the Ukrainian and Melkite churches are real, generational Byzantine communities, for example. But I think you did it again: you admitted you think Byzantium IS the church (except the Oriental/Lesser Eastern churches; close enough, as the praxis in all of them is basically the same). You want us to dump half our teachings and to byzantinize us. Idolatry. Byzantium (including Catholics) in America is self-limiting because the culture doesn't last beyond three generations. In Catholicism, I wish it did, in more than one form.

      And as I think has been pointed out to you, your (including your leading churchmen) giving the Oriental (Lesser Eastern) Churches a free pass is a modern innovation; arguably they're really Eastern and historically consider you Western and thus bad too.

      "Catholicism without the Pope" in the West has turned into the Old Catholics and the Anglicans, a liberal rump sect and a liberal Protestant denomination. Obviously not the true Catholicism of the West.

      The self-hating Westerners pretending to be Eastern are, certainly if in schism, wrong and likely won't last. (The convert boomlet is over.) I don't mean the still good Catholics called to be Eastern from the Latin Church; yes, that is a calling. I don't think I have it but God might surprise me.

      Byzantium has skeeved me but I still thank the Ukrainians for my first traditional Catholic liturgy, and in those "what Christian church should you belong to?" online quizzes, my answers always include the Christian East. Because the quizzes' writers don't know that Catholicism is Eastern as well as Western, they always tell me I should be Orthodox! Byzantium has potential — in the Catholic Church, under the Pope, not as a standalone.

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    12. If Mary’s holiness is equivalent to the Immaculate Conception and the Church’s infallibility leads logically to the infallibility of the pope, the Church could never tolerate the rejection of these teachings (once contested opinions) without subsequently tolerating a grave theological attack on the Mother of God, and the Church, herself – such toleration has never been allowed by the Church. However, rejection of the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility was tolerated for centuries among churchmen in good standing, thus demonstrating an utter lack of identity between these developed teachings and the ancient teachings of Mary’s holiness and the Church’s infallibility.

      Strawman. Churchmen, including the Fathers (remember, we don't claim they're infallible) and other saints, even St. Thomas Aquinas, can make honest mistakes about things not defined. And, among others, Dale Griffith, a former Orthodox priest (a St. Serge, Paris graduate) now a non-papalist Anglo-Catholic like his dad, can argue and has argued that it's a fiction that Orthodoxy has never had nor believed in doctrinal development. By the way, development of doctrine isn't our doctrine, just Newman's idea, which is acceptable in our doctrine.

      Furthermore, if contested theological opinions, once condemned by saints and eminent theologians of the West, may over time become dogmas of the Faith, what (besides church politics) keeps the ordination of women and same-sex marriage from following a similar trajectory?

      My dad married an Episcopalian so I was born into that denomination. Déjà vu. 19th-century high-church Anglicans, the Tractarians, said the same thing, as did high churchmen before them. The "Reformation" was godly because the Pope was out of control, overstepping his authority, an impressive "conservative" argument just like yours for Orthodoxy. Seriously, they thought the Pope would be doing anti-scriptural things now like ordaining women and marrying two men. Witness the Episcopal Church today, entirely in good standing in Anglicanism: your argument is worthless.

      Actually, when you remove the respective cultures, Orthodox and Anglican claims are very similar, if you factor out/explain away the Thirty-Nine Articles (fallible church and heresy about the Eucharist, un-Catholic and thus un-Orthodox), which I don't think you can do. Bishops, creeds, and liturgy, based ostensibly on the Church Fathers, but no Pope. Underneath the liturgy and folklore, there's very little to Orthodox theology: the creeds, the hypostatic union and the Mother of God logically following from the creeds, and the option of using images.

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    13. By the way, I think Dale was a born Orthodox; Slavic mother.

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  7. "Of course our priests are expected to guard the chalice too. The group that defined transubstantiation can do no less. The catechism can explain the rest."

    Unless there is a manifest grave sin (Canon 915), Roman Catholic priests are not permitted to refuse a communicant Holy Communion. This is very different from the Orthodox practice, which guards the chalice from any profanation, not only in cases of public scandal.

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    1. But profanation by divorce-and-remarriage and contraception is A-OK according to the putative ancient true church.

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    2. "But profanation by divorce-and-remarriage and contraception is A-OK according to the putative ancient true church."

      The Orthodox discipline on divorce-and-remarriage predates the Great Schism. Rome tolerated the practice before the Schism. If you have problems with this, find evidence of Western condemnation of the practice before the Schism. If not, you must accept that there was a common understanding shared by East and West in regards to the issue of divorce-and-remarriage, which enabled toleration of the practice. To re-litigate the issue now is rather strange since the difficulties you find should rather have been revealed abundantly at the time of the practice's initial introduction in a Christianity much more sensitive to theological and moral deviation than our own.

      Regarding contraception - there is currently some unofficial confusion on the patristic teaching and praxis on contraception in Orthodoxy. It's not dissimilar to the historical confusion in the Latin Church about the necessary form of contrition for the Sacrament of Penance, the truthfulness of the Immaculate Conception, or even the nature of the form of the Sacrament of Matrimony before the 19th century. If you can tolerate these differing views in the name of development of doctrine in the Western Church without subsequent violation of its claim to be the true Church, it would be hypocritical to not extend this same toleration of confusion to Orthodoxy in the name of her attempting to preserve unaltered the ancient Faith.

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    3. Even if divorce-and-remarriage was tolerated in antiquity it's still an error. "Sometimes adultery is OK" is sloppy theology, no matter how much you dress it up in the beautiful trappings of Byzantium.

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    4. Orthodoxy strives to follow the ancient Church. For this reason, she is bound to follow the statements of the ancient Church, not later evaluations of her theology. Unless you can find reflections of your judgments of Orthodoxy's marital discipline in the ancient Church, they have no influence on her claim to be the continuation of the ancient Church.

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    5. The ancient church would have seen you making an idol of a culture, leaving the fellowship of the mystical body in order to do so, and thought you were wacko.

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  8. Can you imagine the letters a Greek Orthodox organist must receive from convertdox outraged by organs?

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    1. I was essentially kicked off byzcath.org (I'm in moderation lockdown; my posts go through a censor) for writing that latinized Slavic Greek Catholicism has the right to exist.

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  9. John,

    Did you receive the two responses that I made to this comment thread on Tuesday? I am not sure if you received them or not.

    Thanks!

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    1. I wasn't going to publish them because this is getting tiresome. "TL; DR" ("too long; didn't read") as I understand the kids say. If you want to crow that you won, fine. My comboxes aren't your amvon. If you want to preach on behalf of a false church (even one with true defined doctrine and practices), do it somewhere else. Thanks!

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  10. You may not post this response since our interlocutions are at an end, but for what it is worth, I will submit this last (somewhat extensive) response. May God bless and keep you!

    ~

    "’Normative’ and ‘faithful mainstream Catholicism’ could mean the ‘Survey Says’ game the liberal media of Protestant America play, in which they gather ordinary Catholics, of course passively ‘in union with Pope Francis,’ who agree with mainstream society vs. the teachings of the church, as if we could change those teachings by vote like mainline Protestants or by papal decree. Like if someone asked Arianna Huffington or even Vassula Rydén to speak for Orthodoxy. Or ‘normative’ etc. could mean the teachings of the church.”

    I didn’t anticipate this much confusion. I meant, “faithful” and “normative” in their immediately discernible meaning - Latin Rite Catholics who are in full communion with Pope Francis without making liberal or traditionalist statements in doctrine or praxis.

    “But I think you did it again: you admitted you think Byzantium IS the church (except the Oriental/Lesser Eastern churches; close enough, as the praxis in all of them is basically the same). You want us to dump half our teachings and to byzantinize us. Idolatry.”

    I have never stated that “Western Orthodoxy” is not a widespread future possibility within Orthodoxy. However, at present, Eastern Orthodoxy discerns such a difference in doctrine and accepted praxis between the Byzantine Rite and other (once ancient, but now modern) liturgical rites that she generally considers only the Byzantine Rite as safely and holistically representing what she perceives to be a continuation of the ancient Church’s Faith and praxis (even if, due to historical developments in the Faith, the ancient liturgical tradition of the West is considered to be presently lost). Please don’t mistake a desire of the Eastern Orthodox East to preserve, unaltered, her conception of the ancient Church as an affirmation of liturgical uniformity in principle, which not only would be true idolization but a betrayal of the Catholic nature of the ancient Church.

    “Strawman. Churchmen, including the Fathers (remember, we don't claim they're infallible) and other saints, even St. Thomas Aquinas, can make honest mistakes about things not defined.”

    Eastern Orthodox Christians would argue that it is not the rejection of the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility that are noteworthy, but rather the toleration of this rejection by the official Church. They would argue that the teachings of the Gnostics, Arians, and the Reformers were condemned as deviations before Ecumenical Councils condemned their teachings and defined the truth constantly taught by the Church, while widespread rejection of the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility were permitted before these teachings were defined. Arguably, this could appear to indicate that the first group of heretics was deviating from accepted doctrine (but not dogma), while the latter were rejecting only debated and optional opinions, which were neither doctrine nor dogma. Eastern Orthodoxy has a serious problem with the development of opinions into dogma since this would appear to create an evolution of the Faith, itself, would hinder the Church’s role as a “pillar and ground of the truth” (a truth of which she would, in this argument, always need to be cognizant in order to securely teach), and would appear to present no logical reason why the same development of doctrine could not be applied to other controversial opinions (despite emotional arguments to the contrary).

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  11. “Underneath the liturgy and folklore, there's very little to Orthodox theology: the creeds, the hypostatic union and the Mother of God logically following from the creeds, and the option of using images.”

    You’re viewing Orthodoxy solely through the lenses of academic theology or, in your words, “hard Aristotelian reason as filtered through the Schoolmen.” The ancient Christianity reflected in the spiritual lives of Orthodox Christians goes beyond that (as, I would affirm, does the spiritual life of the classical Latin Church, as well). Theological treatises have their place and the truth is all the richer for their presence, but the Church’s deepest theology is always in her prayers, repentance, and in her saints – all of which create the richest and most efficacious theology of the Eastern Church.

    “Byzantium has potential — in the Catholic Church, under the Pope, not as a standalone.”
    Can you give a guarantee that an Orthodox Church under the Pope would suffer no revision of her canonical or liturgical tradition? If not, how could you fault Eastern Orthodox Christians for having difficulties in seeing how the potential of “Byzantium” is dependent upon the Papacy? I’m not sure how the importance of the Papacy can be argued outside of the basic defense of its presence in the ancient Church and, as such, is a necessary component for any Church claiming to be the ancient Church.

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    1. You’re viewing Orthodoxy solely through the lenses of academic theology or, in your words, “hard Aristotelian reason as filtered through the Schoolmen.” The ancient Christianity reflected in the spiritual lives of Orthodox Christians goes beyond that (as, I would affirm, does the spiritual life of the classical Latin Church, as well). Theological treatises have their place and the truth is all the richer for their presence, but the Church’s deepest theology is always in her prayers, repentance, and in her saints – all of which create the richest and most efficacious theology of the Eastern Church.

      I think this is another strawman, with all due respect; common among Orthodox apologists. Our faith includes Aristotelian reason but also all the things you named, which leads to the second point:

      Can you give a guarantee that an Orthodox Church under the Pope would suffer no revision of her canonical or liturgical tradition? If not, how could you fault Eastern Orthodox Christians for having difficulties in seeing how the potential of “Byzantium” is dependent upon the Papacy?

      I can't, but. However. And it's a big "however." We have no reason to alter the rite, etc. It is entirely Catholic. Through the centuries the ordinary practice of Catholicism has been largely laissez-faire, decentralized, dominated by local custom. Nobody imagined an attempt at wholesale revision such as at Vatican II, which, the church remaining the church, didn't change doctrine, because it couldn't. Trent's reforms were claimed to be but really weren't; just a slight editing of medieval practice. Good.

      The Greek Catholics nine times out of 10 latinized themselves.

      Reminds me of a situation close to my heart even though I'm not Slavic, having gotten to know Ruthenian Catholics well and talking to people on the ACROD side: the 1930s schism in America not really about our teachings and mostly our fault. I say "mostly" only because it takes two to fight. The church has the authority to do things such as ban the ordination of married men in Western countries and to have the diocese own parish property, even though they're only rules, not doctrine. But in America with the Ruthenians and Ukrainians we shouldn't have. We screwed up. I would do anything to end this split, EXCEPT change our doctrine.

      Again, while Byzantium is good, ultimately I'm more interested in the message, the teachings, than their cultural expression. Orthodoxy has made an idol of a good thing. Isn't that always the way with idolatry?

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    2. "I think this is another strawman, with all due respect; common among Orthodox apologists. Our faith includes Aristotelian reason but also all the things you named, which leads to the second point"

      I understand, but I think we need to be cautious in limiting "theology" to scholastic theology since such theology had a definite origin, will wax and wane in emphasis during the centuries, and will often be unreachable by the common man. The theology of the Catholic Faith must be as perennially present as the Lord that she follows, and thus, cannot essentially consist of forms of theology that had a definite origin (such as scholasticism or even dogmatic formulas, themselves). For this reason, I am hesitant to maintain that the ancient Christian East has no theology simply because it has few dogmas and no viable scholastic movement. Rather, the ancient Christian East possesses the basic and most fundamental theology of Christianity - that found in the spiritual life as reflected in the Liturgy, monasticism, and general spiritual life of the faithful. Every other form of authentic theology simply further illuminates and extends this basic theology of the Church, and does not replace it as the essential and fundamental theology of the Church.

      “I can't, but. However. And it's a big "however." We have no reason to alter the rite, etc. It is entirely Catholic.”

      As you noted, the Papacy has directed other reforms of entirely Catholic liturgical rites for no good reason. Orthodox Christians see no guarantee that such could not happen to their ancient liturgical and canonical tradition in the future (in fact, the canonical reforms have already occurred in the Eastern Catholic Churches, who follow a different canonical tradition than did the ancient Christian East and currently Eastern Orthodox East). Just as such reforms cannot be currently foreseen, this situation could change as did the supposition of liturgical reforms in the Latin Church change in the early-mid 20th century.

      “Again, while Byzantium is good, ultimately I'm more interested in the message, the teachings, than their cultural expression. Orthodoxy has made an idol of a good thing. Isn't that always the way with idolatry?”

      There is a thin line between liturgical “rite” and “culture.” At some point, the cultural distinctiveness of a rite gives way to an ancient and worthy manner of expressing the “lex orandi” of the Church, and as such, much be valued, defended, and preserved as a vital manner of preserving the message, teachings, and general “lex credendi” of the Church (without appeals to a “cultural idolatry” that stereotypes an entire group for the failings of a few and supplies ample opportunity for renovationists to destroy ancient liturgical patrimony).

      ~

      I hope that we can continue to dialogue about these ecclesial issues in a more productive manner!

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