Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mediocre Catholics like me, and more

  • Steps to save Christianity, from Throne and Altar. This is a Catholic blog, but by one utterly unsuited to promoting the Faith. I make no pretense to personal holiness. I do not pray often. I do not fast often. ... I have little insight into the deep matters of the Faith. No one should take me as a guide on getting to heaven. This blog does more preliminary work than that. While the great theologians have been thinking about how to raise people to the heights of charity and mystical illumination, they haven’t noticed that the masses have lost even the basic natural attitudes that make for a mediocre Catholic. I have in mind three preliminaries in particular. The first is a sense of the sacred, the spirit of reverence, coupled to a sense of God’s revelation in the given meanings of the world. The second is a horror of nihilism, so that a man fears meaninglessness more than he craves license. The last is basic tribal loyalty to the Church and her members throughout the ages. The theologians scorn these attitudes because they are after all natural; one finds analogous or even identical things in any vital religion. But without them, any spiritual quest is bound to begin in pride and end in apostasy. Time and again, I’ve seen men of much greater virtue and much greater love of Jesus fall into error for lack of a visceral repulsion to blasphemy and disloyalty. ... So, one point of this blog is to help people become mediocre Catholics like me. I encourage you not to be satisfied with this, but remember, you can’t be a good Catholic if you can’t first be a mediocre Catholic. Grace builds on nature, higher spiritual states on lower ones. And: A religion is a synthetic tribe. But progressives hate tribalism, so Christians have piously stopped being tribal.
  • My latest commuter-train read: The Quest for Unity: Orthodox and Catholics in Dialogue, from St. Vladimir's Seminary (American Orthodoxy's liberal intellectuals) and the then-United States Catholic Conference. Platitudes repeating what we have in common, and indifferentist crap that of course doesn't represent either side. No wonder it doesn't have a nihil obstat or imprimatur. Nothing about the liturgy (nothing criticizing the Novus Ordo, for example); just a libcath/libdox confab. Some of it's about assimiliation in Greater New York regarding marriage: "So you met a nice Greek girl; now what?" You know my line: Byzantine Christianity in America loses its people by the third generation. Read between the lines in this book and you see that. It says that in New York, most Orthodox, most of whom are Greek, marry Catholics. (Thanks!) Really, according to each side's teachings, mixed marriages are impossible, exactly because we're so similar. We each claim to be the true church, so the church-member spouse has to promise his/her church to raise the kids in the faith. One church has to win. This book's recommendations go against that. I think that really means the Orthodox are desperate so they're hoping we'll give them a break by letting the Catholic spouse raise the kids in their church. No can do. I'm sure parishes on each side break the rules, and anyway, in reality, lots of people on each side aren't religious, so chances are Nick and Gina go off to a judge to get married at a park or the beach.
  • Quick, to the Orthodox: what coming back to the church would change for you. You would start teaching that contraception and divorce-and-remarriage are wrong. Your patriarchs (all of them, since we want you all to come back together) would answer to the Pope, who only defends these essentials: the Trinity, the hypostatic union, the Mother of God, bishops, the Mass, and the option of using images. That's it. At the parish level it probably wouldn't affect you. Your rite, your nations, and your cultures would be the same. Latinized Byzantine Catholicism has the right to exist (I got kicked off the anti-Catholic byzcath for saying that) but you don't have to become that.
  • From the Orthosphere (not about Orthodoxy):
  • A Dreher-type community could well turn into a toxic community of Gladys Kravitzes of both sexes. Not only are moral snoopers and informers generally resented by regular people in the same measure as your average SJW Twitter troll is by right of center folks, but the snoopers inevitably turn on each other.
  • Kathy Shaidle: Was the civil-rights movement necessary? Wasn’t it obvious to anybody else that Barry Goldwater was correct, that the Civil Rights Act had ushered in our era of shuttered and sued print shops and bakeries in the name of “equality”?
  • Stolen-valor question. Which is worse when it comes to that (it means lying about your military record: fake military and fake veterans), someone who never served saying he is or has, or a real veteran dishonoring himself by claiming combat he didn't do and medals he didn't earn? A big deal for real warriors: Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Boorda shot himself when accused of doing that because of a misunderstanding (whether you can wear the combat V for valor on your medal or ribbon depends on how close your ship was to the coast of Vietnam).


  1. In order for union between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches to be authentic and truthful, the Orthodox Church would have to accept the morality of cremation (considered by the Orthodox Church as a sacrilegious desecration of the body, which is both morally and canonically forbidden), accept joint prayer with heretics and non-Christians, endorse the legitimacy of modernistic liturgical rites, approve of administering the sacraments to non-members of the Church, and change her dogmatic tradition to allow for the revision of her catechisms in order to include once rejected opinions as doctrines and dogmas (as happened with the revisions of the mid-19th century, "Controversial Catechism," which once called "papal infallibility" a "Protestant invention," while denying such papal authority in its pre-1870 versions), as well as introduce practices apparently unknown to the ancient Fathers (such as the granting of indulgences, which developed from the penitential discipline of the Church and only reached its current form in the 15th century, with the approval of indulgences for the dead).

    Such a reunion would be a massive change in the life of dedicated and faithful Orthodox Christians and needs an explanation as to how these changes would not be a moving away from Orthodoxy's ancient and patristic principles.

    1. Good answer. You're a better Orthodox apologist than the ecumenical crew in The Quest for Unity. You guys are often at your best when you take our methods (scholasticism and catechisms) and use them against us. But of course here's why you're wrong about the true church. You'd be plausible if your side hadn't bought into nonsense about divorce and remarriage long ago, or modern sophistry about contraception. Those issues matter. Not church geekery; sex of course hits people where they live.

      I appreciate the symbolism of burial, thus the ban on cremation we once shared. But it's just a symbol, just a rule, and your side agrees: in Japan you cremate because it's the law; economy. Bodies decompose anyway and we have small parts of them as relics. Cremation doesn't affect the resurrection of the body.

      I'm sympathetic regarding intercommunion but really have no problem with what we're doing, which defends the Real Presence and resembles another true-church claimant, traditional Lutherans with their "close Communion, not closed." I agree with you that an Orthodox who receives from us becomes Catholic by so doing.

      The Episcopal Church I grew up in was "high" about who may receive; its rule was closed Communion. ("High church" really means strong church authority, not elaborate ceremonial, by the way.) You couldn't receive unless, if baptized Protestant, you were confirmed by an Episcopal bishop, or, if confirmed/chrismated Catholic or Orthodox, received into the Episcopal Church. Episcopalians claim to be in the apostolic club with Catholics and Orthodox, unusual for Protestants. Now it does "open Communion": all Christians are allowed, with at least the high churchmen adding a line about believing in the Real Presence. We have a similar line (guarding the chalice; why receive from us when you don't share our faith about the Eucharist?) but only commune such Protestants in extremis.

      I'm sympathetic regarding not praying with heretics too. We should not be lending or leasing our churches to Protestants. (I can't imagine patristic bishops doing that.) But again, discipline, not doctrine. Our doctrine is solid; almost everybody knows we're not indifferentists. We don't go to a Protestant service instead of Sunday Mass, and in the Byzantine Rite and the new Mass we don't concelebrate with Protestant ministers, for example. Many Protestants are still telling us to get with the program.

      You're preaching to the choir about modern liturgy (how I talked myself into buying your argument 20 years ago) but the new Mass isn't heretical. It's backed by our doctrine and its Latin template is fine, as is the English now. Becoming Catholic would not force you to use it anyway, but being in communion with it is no problem, unless you fetishize a rite or culture. We don't need a particular rite, mine or yours. All we need is one rite with sound content. But of course we keep and use many rites; all have the right stuff.

      The rest reminds me of "marriage with deceased wife's sister," the same-sex marriage of its day in terms of controversy, in Victorian England, with churchmen arguing heatedly over it, but it's now forgotten. (Same-sex marriage of course is impossible.)

      Your side has development of doctrine too; of course indulgences are fine.

      In the end you're still just fetishizing a rite, if only in practice, pretending it's the whole church. Understandable from somebody born into it; less forgivable from a Western convert. (Self-hating: the John Walker Lindhs and Rachel Doležals of the church scene.) Our old-school high-church Anglican and traditional Lutheran friends have principled objections to the church too but they offend me less because with them, brother Westerners, it's not cultural nonsense masquerading as theology.

  2. Modern justifications for cremation read identically to modern justifications for the use of artificial contraception. Both proponents of cremation and contraception argue that their modern discipline is justified because the ancient Church condemned a practice different from what they are doing, that the laws of nature are equivalent to their action, and that the previous bans on these practices were merely disciplinary rules that may change because situations are different in the modern world.*

    For example, contraception advocates argue that because all marital acts are not naturally fertile that people have the right to deliberately remove the fertility that God has made part of a particular sexual act - much like those who approve of cremation argue that since the body will eventually naturally disintegrate, people have the right to create this disintegration through their own action, when disintegration would not otherwise occur at that time. Both advocates, in their pride, assume that they can periodically usurp what belongs to God alone, and attack and distort God’s creation (be it either the human body or the sexual act). Further, to argue that cremation does not affect the resurrection of the body misses the point of why the ancient Church and today's Orthodox Church opposes cremation - viz., cremation is wrong not because it challenges God’s power to resurrect from the dead, but because it is a selfish desecration of the body, in which a person takes ownership of and alters something, which he is called to respect as a gift from God. This is what occurs in the use of artificial contraception and it is what occurs in cremation.

    To ask an Orthodox Christian to leave Orthodoxy for Catholicism because the latter has a more clearly defined discipline on the use of contraception is, to the Orthodox Christian, simply embracing one immoral action (cremation), while returning to more clarity on another moral issue (contraception). At least the Orthodox Christian is not officially bound to accept the immorality of artificial contraception (the individual innovations of priests and lay people regarding contraception cannot bind anyone in Orthodoxy – the traditional discipline and Faith remains), while as an Eastern Catholic, the former Orthodox Christian would have to officially accept cremation as merely a disciplinary issue that is not automatically immoral. How does this make the Orthodox Christian closer to the ancient Church, which viewed both cremation and contraception as immoral?

    Regarding intercommunion, our obligation as claimants of the continuation of the ancient Church is to mirror the discipline and doctrine (the two should never be separated) of the Holy Fathers, not high church Anglicanism and/or Lutheranism.

    In regard to modern liturgy, the wide use of papal authority to create a modern liturgy is as much a problem for Orthodox Christians as is the wholesale abandonment of traditional liturgical practices. Further, limiting the orthodoxy of a rite to its doctrinal soundness is foreign to the patristic spirit, which equally guarded right doctrine and correct praxis.

    What you noted about not liturgizing with heretics is commendable, but Orthodoxy officially observes Canon XLV of the Holy Apostles, which suspends clergy who pray with heretics, and desposes clergy who celebrate the Holy Liturgy with them. The patristic bishops who mention would avoid all prayer with heretics and would be at home in Orthodoxy, but out of place in modern Catholicism.

    *Orthodox Christians apply “oikonomia” to both canonical legislation and even certain ethical issues, such as cremation. The use of economy does not mean that cremation is moral, but that due to the pastoral circumstances, the punishment (such as excommunication from the chalice) does not apply in instances where cremation is allowed.

    1. So far two people I know of have left your thing for the church thanks to this blog. Have a nice day.

  3. (a bit off-subject) --- A question, please, for both Eastern and Western Christians:
    I have seriously considered cremation in planning my final rites. Do either of you consider the draining of the body of half its weight and washing that part down the municipal swage system ? What do you think of then pumping the carcass full of toxic chemicals? TALK ABOUT PROFANING the temple of the Holy Ghost!
    I would certainly prefer to be buried in consecrated ground, sans vault, but no Roman Catholic cemetery in the area offers that alternative. The cemeteries are too tied in with the Funereal Industrial complex. I do believe that cremation is a much less grievous offense against Heaven, than any alternative we have today.

    1. Thanks for that info. The funeral business seems to be a racket, taking advantage of grief.

      I appreciate the traditional symbolism of not cremating, like I appreciate the Byzantine Rite symbolizing the church's unity by allowing only one Divine Liturgy per altar per day. But it's just a symbol.


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