Friday, July 17, 2015

Mixed marriages and how to convert people

A conversation about this post:
Ah, Orthodoxy: the fashion of Tsars and Sultans since the Fall of Constantinople (defended by the last Emperor of the East, who died a Catholic).
What strikes me here is the difference between the hyperdox Hermans stressing their true-church claim so they'd understandably discourage a mixed marriage or dare to try to convert the Catholic spouse, and the real Orthodox, normal people who date who they're attracted to and fall in love; their clergy know their sect is dying in America so they push the "sister churches" etc. jazz instead, trying to get us to raise the kids from those marriages in their church. Understandable for cultural survival; I almost feel sorry for them.

Bet it's fun to compare, say, Orthodox evangelism in America, such as it is, to what really happens at American ecumenical meetings:
Orthodox bishop: Come on! Raise the kids in our church. "Sister churches"! Pleeeeease? I'll be your friend!
Catholic bishop: Forget it, Stan. And hey, wasn't one of your priests calling us graceless just now?
Orthodox bishop: Aw, you're mean!
We should do something like that with the Episcopalians if ecumenism isn't dead yet: "Leo? Hi, Tom Wenski here. Remember when you received one of our priests and made that crack about the Inquisition? Well, the ecumenical service's canceled indefinitely. So long." Ditto to other Protestants who host episcopi vagantes' ordinations of so-called "Roman Catholic Womenpriests."
Yes, the Orthodox are in a bind, dying out in their ancestral homelands and unable to keep the youth engaged here in the West. But surely this is part of the bad fruit harvested on account of the excessive ethnodolatry of the modern Orthodox? Without Rome, without a sense of the universal, it just becomes worship of the tribe. Back when I was in college I had a great attraction to Eastern Orthodoxy, and used to attend Mass at the local Greek Orthodox parish on occasion. I remember talking to a woman who was a convert once, and I asked her what the most unexpected part of her conversion was. She said, words to the effect that she thought she was becoming Greek ORTHODOX but it turned out she was becoming GREEK Orthodox.

But, it must be remembered, the Orthodox for all their problems aren't like the Anglicans — the Orthodox have valid sacraments and are an estranged part of the Church, if in an irregular situation. The Anglican "Church," alas, remains fakedty-fake.
That reminds me of Holy Apostles Church in southeastern Virginia, which is joint Catholic/Episcopal. As you can imagine, alas, it never was precocious Anglo-Papalists and kind traditional-ish "Romans"; it's Sixties ecumenism. (From when mainline Protestants were strong in America and people wrongly thought the churches were about to merge: either the Anglicans were becoming Catholic or, ha, the Catholic Church was becoming mainline like American Protestants always wanted.) American Catholic liberals and Episcopalians; a few people in mixed marriages, mostly older now. It's orthodox, but barely; the Catholic bishop makes sure of that. They don't concelebrate or intercommune. It has two altars side by side where the Catholic and Episcopal priests do their respective things. I don't know if they've ever had an Episcopal woman priest; not as far as I know. I think it's endangered because the Catholic diocese doesn't have enough priests.

As you know, I'm as against indifferentism as you are, but yelling fakedty-fake often isn't the best way to bring Anglicans into the church. Yes, thanks to Vatican II, in England some Catholic and Anglo-Papalist (Forward in Faith: would-be Catholic; no women priests) parishes did things together: for example, an event starting with a prayer service at the Anglican parish church, then a joint procession, then Benediction at the Catholic church. Makes sense; all recognized the Catholic sacrament. Now at least some of those Anglicans are the British ordinariate.

(Related: Taizé co-founder Max Thurian ended up a Catholic priest, still in Taizé.)

It seems to me that mixed marriages with Episcopalians aren't that much of a problem, unlike Catholic/Orthodox, exactly because we're less similar. My guess is the Episcopalians now don't have a problem with the kids being Catholic, even though they don't like us (they think "Romans" are low-class and bigots); they don't require the Episcopal spouse to raise them Episcopal.

They may not like us but they have always recognized our orders, for example, which showed the way into the church for me.


  1. Between the "Hyperdox Hermans" and the nominal Orthodox are the faithful Orthodox Christians who oppose mixed marriages because they violate Orthodoxy's ancient canonical discipline and praxis. Please make provision for this important and representative group of faithful in your observations of Orthodoxy vis-a-vis mixed marriages.

    However, I do think you hit upon a good point - nominal Orthodox who disregard Orthodoxy's opposition to mixed marriages are essentially connected to liberal/ecumenist Orthodoxy, which truly is a sad deformation of historic Orthodoxy. I doubt that you would find the pandering you mention (and deplore) in non-ecumenist Orthodox circles (which truly are representative of the Orthodox Church; the liberals are the outliers).

    1. Sure, you have normal churchgoers who know and care about your teachings. But the mainstream, ethnic Orthodox clergy (real Orthodox) I describe here aren't being relativistic; they're not breaking your teachings. They want us to break ours for their benefit. Although "ecumenist" is a fighting-word insult in Orthodoxy, I've come to the belief that your ecumenists are not indifferentist; they're actually good Orthodox. For example, giving moral support to our small, disloyal faction of "Orthodox in communion with Rome" to try to get us to drop our teachings and switch. They recognize our orders, but that's an option for you.

      The three main American Orthodox jurisdictions are "ecumenist": the Greeks, the slightly majority ex-Catholic-based OCA, and the Antiochians. As are smaller ones such as the mostly ex-Catholic-based ACROD. They have ecumenical talks with us, have agreed not to baptize converts already baptized non-Orthodox (which they're allowed to do, but rejecting our baptisms is an option for you), and recognize our orders.

      ROCOR hates our guts (while ironically being a lot like us, scholasticism, catechisms, Westernized choral music, baroque art, and all, which is very Russian); you're right that they don't pander by recognizing our orders and laying on our own liberals' "sister churches" talk. But their kids date and marry whoever they're attracted to and leave by the third generation in America too.

      So if you don't identify as an "ecumenist," which jurisdiction do you belong to? Are you anti-ecumenical but in a canonical Orthodox church or outside canonical Orthodoxy, such as in one of the Greek Old Calendarist churches?

  2. I doubt that any Orthodox Christian identifies as an "ecumenist," even though those tendencies are present in some canonical Orthodox Christians (I do not support the Old Calendarist movement).

    I simply believe that Orthodoxy should respect the ecclesial boundaries outlined by her canonical discipline and refrain from blurring those boundaries through modern ecumenism.

    1. Like I said, "ecumenist" is a fightin'-word putdown in your circle; like how "hipsters" never call themselves hipsters.

      So I guess you're fine with persuading us to let you raise the kids but rightly not fine with pushing the sister-churches argument for it, which goes against both our sides' teachings. Makes sense. But earlier you wrote: Orthodox Christians apply “oikonomia” to both canonical legislation and even certain ethical issues. So does the end justify the means in Orthodox opinion? Here I mean is it OK on your side to lie, supporting the sister-churches argument you don't really teach, in order for the kids to be raised Orthodox?

      The sister-churches argument is a distortion of Catholic teaching. We recognize your sacraments all the time, on principle. Being the true church, the Catholic Church has no sisters, but since you have real bishops, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Greek Orthodox metropolis can be said to be sisters, though one is out of communion. Estranged Catholics. The "Orthodox in communion with Rome" sound relativistic but they're really not; it would be illogical. Ultimately they want you to win.

  3. Oikonomia simply means that, due to pastoral situations in certain cases, the punishment otherwise present for breaking a canonical or general church standard, does not apply. Such standards do not change the nature of the activity from immoral to moral and are not meant to set a precedent for all to follow. Oikonomia does not apply to any ethical situation, and I have never heard this principle applied to lying.

    Orthodox Christians who use the "sister church" argument do so because they really believe it (in contradiction to the true position of the Orthodox Church), not because they are deceiving others about their secretly traditional sentiments. Such conspiratorial fantasies have little reflection in reality.

    Traditionally, the Latin Church would have never dared to refer to the Eastern Orthodox Church as a "sister church." These developments go far in convincing Orthodox Christians that a union with Rome would result in many changes in her praxis (if not doctrine).

    1. But the Orthodox clergy pushing this obviously want the kids to be Orthodox (the Orthodox are cratering in America; the convert boomlet was a drop in the bucket and is over), though the argument in ecumenical documents (no official standing on either side) is fine with the kids being Catholic. Few Catholics marry Orthodox; most Greek Orthodox in the New York area marry Catholics.

      I never said anything about the Eastern Orthodox communion being a sister church. The Catholic Church has no sisters, remember? But, say, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the OCA diocese of eastern Pennsylvania can be said to be sisters. You're right that we have our allowable hardline opinions: for example, that all non-Catholics are going to hell, and, I understand common before Vatican II, that while the separated Christian East has real bishops, etc., they don't get any grace from that because they're outside the church; using those things is a sin.

      The only changes in your teaching and practice in a union would be that you would have to teach that divorce-and-remarriage and contraception are wrong, and all your patriarchs would answer to the Pope, who only defends the same essentials you do. I don't think the older ethnic rank and file in your parishes would have a real problem with those (I can't see Yiayia in the Athenos yogurt commercials being enthused about contraception and divorce). You don't have to latinize, but latinized Byzantine Catholicism has the right to exist (they chose the latinizations). Your rite would be left alone. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from being back in the universal church.

    2. Pope Paul VI called the Orthodox Church a "sister church" in the joint declaration with Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I in 1965. Pope John Paul II referred to the Orthodox and Catholic Churches as "sister churches" in the encyclical, "Slavorum Apostoli," in 1985 as well as in the more notable encyclical on ecumenism, "Ut Unum Sint" in 1995.

      This expression was more firmly grounded in modern Catholic teaching by the then Cardinal Ratzinger in 2000, who despite apparently undermining the doctrinal integrity of the expression, approved its continued use in relation to "Churches" that possess a valid episcopacy and Eucharist.

      Clearly, the modern Latin Church considers it acceptable to use the expression of "sister churches" in relation to Churches that are believed to be in schism. This is a serious change of ecclesiological expression that Orthodox Christians would be forced to accept as legitimate (in addition to accepting the equality of expressions that identity the Church of Christ with the Orthodox Catholic Church and expressions that denote only a fullness of presence, such as the famous "subsist in" phrase of the Second Vatican Council) in cases of reunion between Orthodoxy and Catholicism.

      In regard to the changes to Orthodox teaching - you are disregarding all the changes that would result from accepting the theological developments of the Latin Church in the second millennium, such as indulgences, the Immaculate Conception, Papal Infallibility, the contractual nature of the sacrament of Matrimony, etc. which would radically change the beliefs of the present Orthodox Church. In addition to changing the actual Faith of Orthodoxy, this acceptance would force Orthodoxy to redefine her understanding of how Holy Tradition is passed down and preserved in the Church (viz., the truth is passed down and defended and all progress is limited to further strengthening and clarifying the always-believed Faith of the Church), which is contrary to the development of theological understanding that characterized the second millennium of Latin Christianity (which was characterized by both preservation of ancient truths and the development of new understandings), and which resulted in the doctrines and dogmas mentioned above.

      Minimizing the theological impact of a reunion between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches doesn’t do justice to the full significance of either Churches’ teaching or practice.

    3. "You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from being back in the universal church."

      Individual and dedicated Orthodox Christians would perceive a reunion as a loss of the entire ancient Orthodox patrimony since it would place ancient customs and beliefs on par with modern praxis and relative new beliefs, if not change the former to the latter, all together.

    4. You're living in your head. I see Orthodoxy as almost everyone else does, a rudderless (ha) folk Catholicism that degenerates into tribalism.


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