Saturday, October 07, 2017

Two wrong extremes when talking about the Orthodox

I've probably rehashed this a few times but here it is (again).

Two mistakes for us Catholics to avoid when talking to and about the Orthodox.

  • Zoghby's branch theory: "We're both the church; it doesn't matter which side you join." From the late Melkite Archbishop Elias' (Zoghby) "All Schismatics?" approach, a distortion of our teachings, which 1) recognize Orthodox holy orders and thus their Eucharist (so in a sense everybody with real bishops is still part of the great Catholic family; our "branch theory") and 2) give never-Catholic Orthodox the benefit of the doubt. Some convert Byzantine Catholics, in love with the rite and the spirituality, both good, use this as an excuse to leave the church when their parishes' or dioceses' practice isn't Byzantine enough for them. (Thinking Byzantium is the whole church is a trap, the error of the Orthodox.) His indifferentism is as un-Orthodox, offensive to them ("ecumenist" is an insult to many of them), as it is un-Catholic. Logically, it would mean there is no church, at least none worth taking seriously (why most people don't go to mainline Protestant churches anymore). Long story short with the Melkites: Elya's right and Zoghby was wrong.
  • "No, Byzantine Catholics don’t worship like the Orthodox; the Orthodox worship like them/us!" Every ancient church, such as ours, claims it's the only true one but I would never say something this chauvinistic. The fact of one true church means normally only Catholic bishops and priests have "jurisdiction," meaning authority over a diocese and the power to grant absolution or solemnize marriages (in an emergency any priest, including Orthodox and laicized, is given jurisdiction; then, Catholics should ask them for the sacraments if no active Catholic priest is around), so strictly speaking, to us Orthodox and Anglican bishops are Msgr. Demetrios and Mr. Curry, for example. (Monsignor because that's not only for certain priests; it's also a title for a bishop without diocesan authority, including Catholic ones; also common European usage for bishops.) But people acting in good faith, that is, who aren't ex-Catholics, again, get the benefit of the doubt so using their titles isn't that bad. (Why I call Anglican priests Father; I'm not being disingenuous.) Anyway, the trouble with this well-meant statement by a Catholic (it was said to me 25 years ago) is it tells the Orthodox wrongly that we believe the practices of all Byzantine Catholics are perfect because they're Catholics so we want to change the Orthodox to be just like them. An understandable misunderstanding! No, we recognize that the Orthodox are the vast majority of Byzantine Christians (it would be stupid to think and act otherwise) and for us the Orthodox set the standard for the rite's liturgical practice. (St. Pius X officially founding the Russian Catholic Church: nec plus, nec minus, nec aliter, not more, nor less, nor other than the Russian Orthodox Church's practices.) Byzantine Catholics often latinized themselves centuries ago, which was not our original plan for them. We only tolerate that; we don't promote it.

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