Sunday, June 14, 2015

Bloggers leaving the church, and the Greek Catholic option redux

First Owen White, then Gabriel Sanchez... are you next, John, or me?
Are you being facetious? Speaking for myself, no way. I respected them both; they know better. This is sort of what it felt like when Tertullian left the church, or what if Chesterton had chucked it all to join the Jehovah's Witnesses? Harsh, sure. Orthodox are estranged Catholics, not a no-longer-Christian faith. But the illogic is much the same.

Somebody else:
I entered the Church as a Russian Catholic, and remain so — including attending St. X's near where I live now. Within a year or two, I may need to move to a place where I do not know if there are any Eastern Catholic options.
I'm fine with Greek Catholics being ecumenical; pretending the Orthodox don't exist would be silly. Saturday Vespers with the Orthodox if your Greek Catholic parish doesn't have it, and certainly if there is no Greek Catholic parish near you. But if there's no Greek Catholic parish available, then receive the sacraments from "the Latins": Catholic is Catholic.
I also admit that I do not see the schism as a grave issue, as you do. In 1995, I read RC apologetic books, and read EO apologetic books. My eyes glazed over. I thought: "This whole mess is stupid. Guys in the funny hats, can you just grow up and stop the politics?" I went Eastern Catholic because it worked out for me ... and in fact, changing jurisdictions from Anglican to Catholic was the equivalent of major surgery. Necessary, but I would not make another change unless forced to by dire necessity.
"Worked out for me" vs. objectively true: not good. Of course "major surgery" because we weren't changing jurisdictions, like Latin Catholics called to the Christian East canonically switching ritual churches (a friend is a Ukrainian Catholic by choice). We went from "not the church" to the church.

Many years ago when I tried to come back to the church, the "Orthodox in communion with Rome" ("the schism is not a grave issue") told me not to, so their views are worth about as much as Zimbabwean currency.

30 comments:

  1. John, I commend you on this sensible posting, and particularly for this, "Saturday Vespers with the Orthodox if your Greek Catholic parish doesn't have it, and certainly if there is no Greek Catholic parish near you. But if there's no Greek Catholic parish available, then receive the sacraments from "the Latins": Catholic is Catholic," with which nobody who is a serious and "substantial" (as opposed to an "accidental" one) could disagree.

    Further, your correspondents, or at least the second one whom you cite, seem to display an astonishing insoucisance about ecclesiological truth claims. It is as though they had imbibed the dregs of americanized protestant subjectivized ecclesiological notions, and come up with the "eternal truth" of, hey presto, "it's all about me" (and my needs and predilections). I have seen this a lot lately. Have you ever noticed how the unknown, but clearly scholarly, proprietor of the "Perceptio" blog (formerly "A Real Live One"), who himself went from Catholic to Orthodox, at one point dismissed out of hand, as though they were beneath the notice of all intelligent folk, any and all "true Church" claims? And yet to me dealing with such claims seems to me as objectively important a matter as any other aspect of "choosing a church/the Church."

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    1. Thanks.

      Have you ever noticed how the unknown, but clearly scholarly, proprietor of the "Perceptio" blog (formerly "A Real Live One"), who himself went from Catholic to Orthodox, at one point dismissed out of hand, as though they were beneath the notice of all intelligent folk, any and all "true Church" claims?

      I don't read him much. What strikes me about him is I read no joy from him about his new faith, not even a honeymoon discovering the Byzantine Rite. All he does is still complain about the church. His phronema is Orthodox about the same way Bruce Jenner's DNA is female. Hey, Rachel Dolezal's blacker than he's Orthodox, if you measure blackness by culture, not actual heritage. At least most convertodox, who hate us, are sincere.

      The OicwRs have a similar rap dismissing true-church claims; in their case they really mean "Catholic true-church claims are stupid so you can't criticize Catholic-to-Orthodox conversions." They want us to dump the last 1,000 years of our doctrine and waltz into the church they believe in, the clergy being received in their orders, which is not a given in Orthodoxy. Recognizing our sacraments, they look down on Orthodox hard-liners, who don't. If they really are indifferentists, they're exactly what you say. They would be heretical Orthodox just like they're now heretical Catholics.

      ...the dregs of americanized protestant subjectivized ecclesiological notions, and come up with the "eternal truth" of, hey presto, "it's all about me" (and my needs and predilections).

      An online queen bee of many years rather recently announced she was switching to Orthodoxy with her fingers crossed as it were, almost exactly as you describe. All that matters is she wants to receive Communion at her local Orthodox parish, which she likes for some reason. When, besides leaving the church being grave matter, I pointed out this disrespects the Orthodox as much as it does us, the OicwRs who run that page kicked me out.

      The American religion indeed.

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  2. Was that Byzantine Forum you were kicked out of? If it was, John, you had an incredibly long run

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    1. No; I've been kicked off two Facebook Byzantine Christian pages that turned out to be run by OicwRs. On the Byzantine Forum I'm "moderated" because last year I said that the Catholic Church rightly offers latinized forms of the Byzantine Rite as well as unlatinized.

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  3. ...in my experience people on that forum better keep their defense of Rome cautious or highly nuanced. I found the place toxic.

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    1. Yes; it's anti-Catholic, which is why I don't think its URL should be byzcath nor should it be part of a site called the Byzantine Catholic Church in America, literal small-print disclaimer notwithstanding.

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  4. While I have no idea what motivated your fellow bloggers, I am intrigued by your use of the phrase of Orthodox being "estranged" Catholics, esp. as you doubtless know the Orthodox POV of Rome as the home of innovation and hence that the estrangement occurred in the west, not the east.

    Also, when I go with friends and family to Catholic liturgical events, I usually do not come away with any great sense of wackiness (esp. since Benedict cleaned up the translations, as you and I discussed before); in fact, one could make the argument that there is nothing innovative/objectionable other than the filioque (although the ExForm is less susceptible to clerical and lay caprice than the OrdForm of course).

    and, as you know, a big issue between west and east remains the Papacy; yet so very little regarding what Catholics believe about the Papacy is expressed liturgically (unless it is expressed in services I've never read or attended). Why is that? If how and what we pray corporately is the main indicator of what we believe, its absence leads me to wonder to what degree Catholics believe it themselves.

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    1. Estranged Catholics because they have bishops and the Mass, and they've never adopted heretical doctrine, not the same as their erroneous opinions. So born Orthodox get the benefit of the doubt.

      Right, the Pope is the only real difference.

      ...so very little regarding what Catholics believe about the Papacy is expressed liturgically (unless it is expressed in services I've never read or attended). Why is that?

      Because we're not the cult of the Pope; we're about Jesus and his teachings, of which the Pope is only a caretaker. There is no good reason to remain outside the church.

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    2. So just to be clear, nowhere in the corporate prayer life of Catholics is any mention made of what Catholics are required to believe regarding the Papacy, correct?

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    3. This sounds like an Orthodox or OicwR sales pitch: if the papacy doesn't matter, why not get rid of it as we know it? Because although the papacy is a small part of the church, it's indispensible.

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    4. Ok, why is it indispensable? I'm not pushing a sales pitch, just trying to understand. You say it's small but indispensable, other Catholics that it's quite large and indispensable, and some others who to an outsider seem to get away with picking and choosing whatever whenever. So I can't tell how it's valued within your own communion, yet your communion insists that we assign it a maximum value, and even though it shows up nowhere in your corporate prayer life.
      It'd be a slam dunk for you if Catholics could point to years and year of prayers speaking about the supreme, immediate and universal authority if the Pope, said this way or that way by the Church in Rome, or Gaul, or anywhere. Or even as a start, to have it said somewhere now. But that nobody does, and that's how we understand value, it's something we don't understand.

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    5. As you know, I believe you individually and collectively have no reason to discard the papacy. Ethnicity and patriotism are great, in their place. We have lots of those too. ("Catholic = Irish, Italian, Polish, Puerto Rican, etc.") But we're about God and principles, not that kind of co-optation/adulteration. (The tsar and Stalin hated Catholicism because they couldn't own it.) The link "What I believe" on my sidebar names the principles. The Pope has always defended true doctrine. My point to you right now: look at his track record today. Contraception: the Orthodox sound just like Protestants. The Pope holds the line. Ditto divorce and remarriage, a much older problem. "Economy: sometimes adultery is OK." Are you effing kidding me? The church can and does dispense from rules. Not the commandments.

      Never mind the liberal "cafeteria Catholics." You can't blame that on the teachings of the church, which are clear and, in the Internet age, available for virtually all to learn. (Like I won't blame Orthodoxy for George Stephanopoulos.)

      Contradiction/hypocrisy mixed with self-righteousness from Orthodox in good standing: "I'm fasting, I'm fasting, I'm fasting. I'm divorced and remarried and use contraceptives." Stephen, I don't care about your apologists' arguments about papal primacy vs. autonomy in early medieval Gaul, etc. Geek sophistry. In the culture wars, "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." Such Orthodox sophistry, like the tribalism as idolatry, is part of the problem. (Rod Dreher's Benedict option is really a sellout, a betrayal of Christendom: be good dhimmi by retreating into a schismatic high church that's socially your own invention.) It's Rome or the abyss. Your choice.

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    6. Well, your admirably consistent, and certainly smack dab in the main stream of papalists going back a few centuries now. Your reliance on the Papacy reminds me of Arch. Lefebrve, as conveyed to Card. Ottoviani. http://archives.sspx.org/archbishop_lefebvre/arch_lefebvre_response_card_ottaviani_post_council.htm

      The downside risk to your hyper-reliance on the Papacy is what happens if the Papacy acts not as a caretaker (which the Orthodox never have a problem with btw; Athenagoras was a staunch supporter of Humanae Vitae), but as an engine of innovation and change, as not a bulwark against progressivism but as a font.

      Muscles atrophy when unused; so that when the Papacy rolled out the liturgical changes post Vatican II, there was precious little anyone in the magisterium or laity could do to protect the western patrimony. Now after 50 years those muscles are slowly developing, but wow - what a price to pay on the altar of hyper-papal reliance. No way I'd risk my patrimony for misplaced obedience.

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    7. Your hyper-reliance on the Papacy.

      Either you're built a strawman or you've mistaken me for conservative Novus Ordo, a kind of Catholic who arguably were our worst enemies in '80s church politics.

      See, we're not that different. Me, the yiayias, and the babas; we're all tradition-driven. The Pope's almost an afterthought but he's not. In his official capacity (I'm not talking about the men; of course they're sinners), he's only been the church's good servant so I'm sticking with him.

      Your vision of the church excludes Western Europe, from St. Thomas Aquinas to St. Francis to Thomas à Kempis to Don Bosco to the Little Flower. I call bullsh*t on that. Our vision of the church includes you, but yours doesn't include us. All because of political and cultural stuff. Is your Orthodox God that freaking small? If that's God, the secular kids are right. Cheat and fornicate away, because "you only live once."

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    8. What strawman? You said "Rome or the abyss." That's not hyper-reliance?

      And, I thought you were a fan of Arch Lefebreve. Read what he wrote . I never thought you'd diss his hyper-reliance on the Papacy.

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    9. I'll say this nice and slow. "Rome" is a synecdoche for "the church." The whole church, East and West. Of which the Pope is a part.

      "It's Rome or the abyss": there's only one church, and let me tell you, some sect of Eastern European boosterism isn't it.

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    10. Typical papalist imperialism, making universal claims with no consensus. You can repeat it ad nauseum and try to beat people into submission, but it ain't gonna happen, and that's what really frustrates folks like you. We'll never trade the faith just to join. We have to believe the exact same thing, and here's what you need to know nice and slow. We don't believe exactly as you do. Your "Rome" innovated. You may want to paper over differences and call us estranged, but the more I read guys like you, the more convinced I am that we are sadly in different planets.

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    11. 'Cuz everybody knows the God-given imperialism is the emperor/tsar/grand poobah/Comrade First Secretary. I'll never trade the faith again to join some ethnic cult. If you think that thing is the true church, we are on different planets.

      The Turks and the Communists figured you guys out. Slap you around a couple of times and you fall into line, because you exist apart from us in order to serve the state. Our bishops never caved to the Communists. (The Communists ordered the Greek Rite ones to become Orthodox. None did.) Yours caved.

      Your "Rome" innovated.

      You're the ones who bless adultery in the name of economy and approve contraception. Just like Protestants. All the pretty liturgy and self-righteous fasting in the world don't paper that over.

      Convertodoxy is like Zen Buddhism in America a few decades ago: the American Religion (reinvent yourself) dressed in someone else's finery.

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  5. The OicwRs are dangerous to Catholics because at first glance they pose as good Catholics. They're not obvious like mainline Protestants or kumbaya Catholic liberals. They agree with the church on several essentials such as the Trinity, the hypostatic union, and the male priesthood, and they love traditional liturgy. When you tune in, they attack other teachings of the church.

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  6. "So just to be clear, nowhere in the corporate prayer life of Catholics is any mention made of what Catholics are required to believe regarding the Papacy, correct?"

    In the pre-1970 Missale Romanum, general mention is made of the role of the Papacy and its necessity in several collects on the feasts of Roman Pontiffs as well as on the feasts of noted Catholic apologists, such as St. Robert Bellarmine. Additionally, the liturgical ceremony of beatification and canonization, which raises to the altar Popes who zealously upheld and defended the Catholic doctrine of the Papacy, is a further inclusion of the Catholic doctrine of the Papacy in the corporate prayer life of Catholics. To expect more precision is somewhat unreasonable since the Sacred Liturgy was never intended to be an exhaustive compendium of Catholic teaching.

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  7. "nowhere in the corporate prayer life of Catholics is any mention made of what Catholics are required to believe regarding the Papacy, correct?"

    Correct, but irrelevant. Substitute for "regarding the Papacy" things like "regarding the two natures of Christ" or "regarding the Eucharist (transubstantiation)" or "regarding Justification (fides caritate formata)" and it would be just as true. Unlike the East (or the Byzantine East) the West (or the Roman/Latin West) the West has never been much given to incorporating dogmas, even solemnly defined ones, into "the corporate prayer life of Catholics;" and when such a thing has happened ir has been almost always a consequence of devotional fervor (and pressure) "from below," from the Faithful, rather than "from above," from hierarchs or theologians. In other words, and from my point-of-view, your criticism, insofar as it is a criticism, is a criticism of the West for being, well, western, that is, not Byzantine. It is analogous to those ignorant Orthodox people that have regarded the Roman Canon as invalid, or at least defective, because it lacks an epiclesis, despite the clear fact that it never, ever had one, and is much older than any Byzantine anaphora, indeed, than any other anaphora in use anywhere today, save, perhaps, for that of Addai and Mari; or even to those who insist upon thrusting an adventitious Byzantine-style epiclesis into the Roman Canon when it has been approved for use by Western-Rite Orthodox groups.

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    1. What you are saying, if I understand you correctly, is that the West is - or has grown to be - more comfortable than the East in having dogmas that can only be learned about outside of the liturgical life of the Church. Ok, fair enough, but a further question could be - and one that I hope you would find relevant - is "So what are the relative upsides and downside, the pros and cons, of the one and the other?" (I hope nobody considers such an examination as criticism just because such a question is asked, nor that any question is off the table, as among family - ultimately too I hope.)

      So I submit to you that a "con" of the West in this regard is that barriers have been created that prevent wider dissemination and understanding of what is to be believed, as less of what is to be believed is available to the hoi polloi in the common and corporate activity. If you can't read, for example, you're less able to gain access to the deposit of faith. And therefor you are more dependent upon those who do, for example, such as a priestly caste. Which could make you more inclined to accepting whatever you might be told by those who can read, as you have fewer means with which to assign value to whatever it is you hear.

      When this is all institutionalized and centralized, it becomes a lot easier to roll out change or a message. Some might consider this net-net a good thing; to me, from what I saw and observed among my Catholic friends in the 60's and 70's with the liturgical changes, it's less of a good thing.

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    2. "East good, West bad": been there, done that, got the souvenirs (I have an icon corner, for example), and found it wanting. You've lost the church's universalilty and have sold out on divorce & remarriage and contraception.

      That said, you and the Christian East have a few points. Traditionalists are, as our nickname says, tradition-driven like your group (and the Lesser Eastern Churches). Conservative Novus Ordo is ultramontane. We're not.

      Your middle paragraph sounds like reheated Protestant propaganda. As if Byzantium were a democracy with 100% literacy, historically. No, they're just as medieval and hierarchical as we are. The papacy hasn't always been super-centralized, and in ways not touching doctrine it doesn't have to be, but the church has always been supranational. In Byzantium, the buck stops with the emperor or his substitute/usurper (sultan or Comrade First Secretary). Peasant folk religion's great (we have it too of course) but your characterization of Byzantium sounds like an American convert Orthodox myth carried over from Protestantism ("we British can read, unlike those superstitious Italians, so no popery for us").

      Obviously things went wrong so that the Sixties hit the Roman Rite like they did. An over-centralized polity removed from the liturgy which the liberals hijacked: likely. But the Pope has only defended the deposit of faith. The church is still the church. And... if a Methodist or Presbyterian denomination changes its worship service, we don't care. The Roman Rite changes and you still care. Thank you.

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    3. Of course we care. Certainly the unaltered Roman Rite (what I believe you call the Extraordinary Form) is an Orthodox one.

      Not sure how you jumped into reheated Protestants propaganda (they too profess to believe in the filioque, but I've never read or heard one explain why they believe what they say they believe.). Mr. Tighe and I agreed that the West is more comfortable with having dogma expressed, understood and accessed outside of the prayer life of the Church. I posited that this leaves you exposed to the risk of clerical elitism and of the corresponding capacity among the laity to guard the faith, such that over several hundred generations, liturgical change post Vatican II met little to no resistance. It was in the water way before the '60s.

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    4. The Byzantine Liturgy in many ways is as medieval as the "Extraordinary Form," much of which evolved after the schism. So if my Mass is orthodox, then so's the rest of Catholicism.

      I posited that this leaves you exposed to the risk of clerical elitism and of the corresponding capacity among the laity to guard the faith, such that over several hundred generations, liturgical change post Vatican II met little to no resistance. It was in the water way before the '60s.

      I've already acknowledged your point. Guess that just encourages you.

      I don't want what you're selling. "Start your own blog complete with lots of icons, pictures of beards, bragging posts about fasting (recipes, for example), and unctuous quotations."

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    5. YF, are from a small family or an only child? Most people from large, close families where I come from save their most vociferous discussions with their own kith and kin; strangers aren't worth it, just give 'em hospitality. You go on and on about how close we all are, yet reflexively seem to be thinking that someone's always trying to sell you something - as if we weren't part of the same family. Most Catholics I know aren't so antiseptic and fragile. They understand when I take it to them, and they love to give it back, just like I do with by own siblings, kids and family. I'm never gonna get into a fight with a Mormon or Buddhist - what is there to talk about? But with a member of my own communion - hell yeah. You gonna move that candle stand - not without a fight, and little old Mrs. Livofsky will land the first shove. You wanna put in pews - I'll go all Local 30 on you and slice any contractor's tires. Only need to do it once, and no pews are gonna get put in. (but yes, I'll pay the guy on the QT to replace his tires). And any bishop thinks he's gonna say something way outta line - he'll get shown the door, and if he's a putz he'll get a foot in this rear on the way out. I'd be right there back in the day when they'd stone 'em for spouting heresy, boulder in my hand. So don't be so wifty and think there's always a sale going on - somebody may actually want to include you.

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    6. Now if the Orthodox did that about divorce & remarriage and contraception, I'd be impressed. By the way, the magisterium is that inner working of the church writ large. But it's the working of the Holy Spirit, not a majority vote.

      I always say semi-congregationalism and grassroots traditionalism are things we Catholics should learn from; Anglicans and Orthodox having the former and Orthodox having the latter. One reason I'd like the Orthodox to come back. Like how I admire the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod for being Christ-centered as well as conservative and liturgical: the difference between them and me is I try to do it IN the church as God intended, not walk off and claim to be the church on one's own.

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  8. "So I submit to you that a "con" of the West in this regard is that barriers have been created that prevent wider dissemination and understanding of what is to be believed, as less of what is to be believed is available to the hoi polloi in the common and corporate activity. If you can't read, for example, you're less able to gain access to the deposit of faith. And therefor you are more dependent upon those who do, for example, such as a priestly caste. Which could make you more inclined to accepting whatever you might be told by those who can read, as you have fewer means with which to assign value to whatever it is you hear."

    This is an interesting critique, worth thinking about, but I tend to agree with the conclusion of the third paragraph of YF's response. In sum, "twas ever thus; and while crowds can be brought out, in urban areas (Reformation German cities as well as fourth-century C'ple, and in the latter the Arians were as good as the Catholics in doing so) to shout theological slogans, it doesn't necessarily betoken widespread understanding. On the other hand, one thinks of the Pilgrimage of Grace in England and the various popular uprisings in Sweden from the late 1520s through the early 1540s against the Reformation with wistful approval.

    Perhaps pedantically, though, I would quibble at this, "the West is - or has grown to be - more comfortable than the East in having dogmas that can only be learned about outside of the liturgical life of the Church." Rather, it is the West that has retained the original understanding that liturgy was not primarily a tool for the inculcation of theological/doctrinal understanding (cf. what I wrote above, "and when such a thing has happened ir has been almost always a consequence of devotional fervor [and pressure] 'from below,' from the Faithful, rather than 'from above,' from hierarchs or theologians), and the East which has tended to freight it with heavy doctrine. I don't in the least disapprove of this; I rather like it, in fact.

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    1. Perhaps a quibble on the quibble...I would think that it is a characteristic of the Church, anywhere, to live the adage of "as we pray, so we believe.", that prayer and practice inform, rule and guide belief - and most clearly not vice versa. That is, if anyone wants to learn what we believe, come and see what and how we pray.

      What you are saying, if I may paraphrase, is that, because the West formed its liturgical patrimony and patterns in the City, in its crypts and homes, so early on before the Edict of Milan, that once the great debates could occur post-Edict, it was more or less immune to the necessity of instruction in the more open post-Edict evolution of the other Rites, particularly that of New Rome. Hence, New Rome HAD to be more instructive and freighted, because it arose in times of plenty, of toleration and debate, whereas the more ancient of the West was already formed in the crucible of want, persecution and protection. Hence the "tightness", the precision, of the western rite; one didn't have as much time to pray corporately, the soldiers may be at the door to slaughter us, yet we still had a sacramental, corporate work to conduct. And whatever may happen elsewhere in Christendom, the West's liturgical depth and richness and antiquity was its true yardstick - the Popes didn't incorporate the Creed into the western liturgy until, what the ninth century or somethig? Probably because in all humility they didn't want to mess with what had been passed on to the liturgically.

      Contrast this to the East, where you had all the time in the world, the debates of the first millenium, the integration of courtly life and pressures, and great wealth; hence, repetition and length and instruction were more required to have everybody leave their worldly cares behind and enter the eternal Kingdom.

      But I would not say that the Western liturgical patrimony could be considered in any way diminishable for its doctrinal teaching capabilities - and even the insertion of the filioque could have been happily ignored by the rest of the Church if the Papacy had not insisted on its universality (the to this day weirdness of "you don't have to say it, but you have to accept it.)

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  9. The Creed, alas with the filioque, was inserted in the Mass in Rome only in 1014 - by which time it had entered the Western liturgy almost everywhere else a couple of centuries earlier at the latest. Henry Chadwick's somewhat strange last book, *East and West: the Making of a Rift in the Church* (2003) treats the question of the filioque, its theological background as well as the word itself. at great length. (I termed the book "strange" because although it is heavily freighted with learning, it treats some matters in immense detail, and others with great brevity, with the detail and brevity not obviously related to the relative importance of the issues so treated; in a way it might be said of the book that "the whole is less than the sum of its parts.")

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