Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Jurisdiction-shopping and stupid sacramentology

  • 3 Greek priests leave Constantinople for ROCOR. “My decision to move to ROCOR was as a result of a number of factors. I have, for some time, been concerned about the growing modernist and ecumenist trends in Constantinople. However, the actions in Ukraine convinced me that I had to leave,” Fr. Spyridon commented to OrthoChristian.
So this is the putative one true church, rival denominations stealing jurisdiction-shopping clergy from each other and crowing about it. ROCOR is now part of the Moscow Patriarchate, which is out of communion with the patriarch of Constantinople for the latter wrongly starting a turf war in the Ukraine, trying to steal that country's churches. I understand the two canonical patriarchates don't even recognize each other's baptisms anymore, at least in the parishes, which is stupid sacramentology. Well, it makes sense to them if each patriarch claims the other is no longer in the true church. I understand that Catholic sacramentology is Augustinian, not Cyprianic (church fathers can be wrong; the church decides): being in the church matters but is not required for validity. Why we recognize Orthodox sacraments!

The self-styled true Orthodox super-believers, the sort who gravitate to ROCOR and are obnoxious about it: the Gregorian calendar and talking to us Catholics are evil, but remarriage after divorce and contraception are okay. (By the way, many Catholics use the Julian calendar - in the Ukraine, for example. It's discipline, not doctrine.) Oh, and if you expect your religion to make sense, you have an evil "rationalist" Western mindset, phronema in the lingo (cult thinking).

Most Orthodox in America are Greeks under Constantinople.

Story the late Archimandrite Serge (Keleher) told me in person:
Orthodox: "It is not enough to have the Orthodox faith; you must be under the Orthodox hierarchy!"
Fr. Serge: "Which one?"
Orthodox: "Shut up! You know too much!"
There is an Orthodox tradition I am a part of by adoption. There is no Orthodox Church. They're all independent.

33 comments:

  1. Lots of misinformation in this article. I'd much rather deal with our problems than the crrent RC mess.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Father. Welcome again. What things does the article get wrong about the situation it describes? Being "RC" doesn't mean you have to pretend the situation in the church is perfect. Part of that is you don't have to pretend that Byzantine Catholic practice is better than the Orthodox for being in the church. No, it's not, and no, it's very much not, respectively. It's been a struggle to get traditional worship back in many places but in more and more of them it's an option, and if you're in the right places there's always been the Byzantine Catholic option (my first traditional Catholic service of any kind in person), which I'm taking. The teachings are sound as a pound and I really wouldn't want to be anywhere else. And as I am a layman the clerical "RC messes" don't affect me.

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  2. I'm sorry, but I've seen many Roman Catholics changing from one group to another (example: leaving the Latin New Mass parishes to join traditionalist groups). In fact, schsms like that we are witnessing between Moscow and Constantinople also happened in Early Church, and this doesn't prove they weren't the true Church, right? In fact, the Roman Church itself has passed through worst confusions and divisions (see the Western Schism with their opposing Popes). The truth is that the Orthodox Church has much more unity today than the Roman Church, unity of faith and worship.

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    1. To give this (in practice) Uniate scum a few kopecks' credit, I thought of that regarding radical traditionalists stomping off outside the official church. Sometimes the local situation is murky so there really is a state of emergency pushing you to go outside the canonical church. God can sort that out. People make honest mistakes, especially historically when travel was hard and communication often poor. Joan of Arc supported someone who turned out not to be the real Pope but she wasn't a schismatic because she didn't intend to be. I prefer Our Lady of Sorrows traditionalist parish and St. Vladimir's Greek Catholic one to St. Novus Disaster down the road but I don't claim St. Novus' Mass is invalid or the bishop is bogus just because I might not like them! Ditto Pope Francis. I don't like him but he's barely still Pope; he can't change our teachings and technically hasn't tried.

      The truth is that the Orthodox Church has much more unity today than the Roman Church, unity of faith and worship.

      Wrong on remarriage after divorce and on contraception. So Constantinople and Moscow use the same rite. So what? They hate each other! Locally an Orthodox parish got into a fight with its diocese, quit, went jurisdiction-shopping, and ended up under a non-canonical patriarch. (Good old American congregationalism in Byzantine vestments.) The canonical Orthodox declared the parish closed. In the Ukraine you've got canonical Orthodox vs. canonical Orthodox. There is no Orthodox Church.

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    2. "The canonical Orthodox declared the parish closed."

      So, the Orthodox Church ensured that such American congregationalism (you're right, that is what it is) couldn't claim to be Orthodox and, apparently, the Orthodox Church had enough unity for all canonical Orthodox to recognize the closure of the parish. This is good.

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    3. What "Orthodox Church"? The canonical Orthodox church that this parish formerly belonged to, its former diocese, declared it closed, and you have a point. But they're all independent. Nothing stopping another canonical Orthodox church from taking it as is happening in the Ukraine.

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    4. I've always assumed the Orthodox Church is a united entity. Just because a religion does not have the type of unity acceptable to the Catholic Church does not mean that it cannot be treated as a united body of believers. If I can speak of a religion in general without having to tailor my comments to different parts of a religion in order to be understood, the religion is united (I think this is the understanding of encyclopedia editors, who do speak of the Orthodox Church as one body of believers in administratively independent Churches). It is strange to extend the mark of basic unity to Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, but deny it to Orthodox Christians. The aforementioned groups do not express the unity of the Catholic Church either (mainly by being too centralized), so why do they get the benefit of named unity but Orthodox do not? Personally, I think the refusal of some to treat the Orthodox Church as one administratively independent church is because it makes the majority of Eastern Christianity easier to dismiss as a viable alternative to Catholicism, while simultaneously allowing one to partake in as much of it as they like without being forced to make commitments to it. However, I don't agree with this way of thinking and think it is unfair to Orthodox Christians.

      "Nothing stopping another canonical Orthodox church from taking it as is happening in the Ukraine."

      That's true, but that is due to the non-canonical situation of overlapping jurisdictions in the Diaspora. When canons are violated in such a situation, weird, and well, non-canonical, things happen. No dressing it up - overlapping jurisdictions are a disaster. Rules are still on the books, though, so officially the Orthodox Church stands against such craziness.

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    5. Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses are recognizable entities. Orthodox ecclesiology doesn't make sense, and I'm fine with a loose communion run largely by custom, even sobornost'. No overhaul of a whole rite, etc. I live in Byzantium as you do but my religion doesn't revolve around it. Culture is great but it's only a culture.

      Personally, I think the refusal of some to treat the Orthodox Church as one administratively independent church is because it makes the majority of Eastern Christianity easier to dismiss as a viable alternative to Catholicism.

      The separated Eastern churches do a good job of that themselves. They're self-refuting. Sloppy theology, to quote a friend who read Timothy/Kallistos Ware. Witness Constantinople vs. Moscow now.

      ...while simultaneously allowing one to partake in as much of it as they like without being forced to make commitments to it.

      Nice try. One of my sayings: a thing I love about the Catholic Church is it doesn't make you hate one rite to love another. I have an entire Orthodox prayer life here. And I'm not impressed with the stunted, byzantinized mess that's Western Rite Orthodoxy. I'd have more respect if they were centuries-old communities like most Byzantine and other Eastern Catholics, which I admit are far from perfect. Make a commitment by swearing that the Latins are in heresy and prelest'? Seriously, I'd rather convert to Buddhism.

      Weird and uncanonical things happen when you just have a gaggle of dioceses under real bishops but no actual church with canonical and magisterial authority.

      They couldn't even get it together to hold a council in Crete. I think they literally can't call an ecumenical council.

      There is no Orthodox Church.

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    6. "Weird and uncanonical things happen when you just have a gaggle of dioceses under real bishops but no actual church with canonical and magisterial authority."

      The Orthodox Church holds to a Eucharistic ecclesiology, in which the fullness of the Church is found in the local diocese centered around the celebration of the Eucharist by the bishop, who is interpreted to stand as the icon of Christ, with true authority to enforce the canonical and teaching Tradition of the Church of Christ. Regardless of what one thinks of the truth of this ecclesiology, which posits a unity in multiplicity, it is metaphysically sound as the Catholic Church uses the same reasoning in its understanding of the oneness of the Eucharist. The Eucharist exists fully in many locations without being divided into multiple Eucharists (despite appearances to the contrary). If the Orthodox understanding of the fullness of the Church in many locations, which remains one and not multiple Churches, is impossible, why isn't the understanding of the full presence of the one Eucharist in many locations, yet remaining one Eucharist (not multiple Eucharists) not also impossible? Apparently, God can and does make possible one form of local fullness that is universally replicated in many locations, while maintaining its essential oneness (i.e. the Eucharist), so such an action is not metaphysically impossible in other contexts (i.e. the Church).

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    7. Thank you for the reminder of Byzantine Eucharistic ecclesiology. As you mentioned, entirely Catholic - if rightly understood. This reminds me of my saying about "the great Catholic family" or even "the Catholic branch theory" (not a co-equal one of course) based on our belief about valid orders. According to us, the Orthodox and other separated Eastern Christians sacramentally are still a part of us. Our theology of orders is Augustinian, not Cyprianic. It runs the risk of having all these flaky little "independent Catholic" bishops, but we include you on principle so it's worth it.

      Constantinople and Moscow each claim the other is not the church.

      There is no Orthodox Church. The Orthodox themselves prove it.

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  3. The reminder that "Catholics are evil, but remarriage after divorce and contraception are okay" is helpful in relating to my Russian Orthodox colleague, whom I love to no end as a "fellow traveler" in the Solovievian sense, but who insists that I'm a heretic.

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    1. So good to see you after all this while, Joshua. I've got your new blog address now. So you're keeping the blogging faith after the mass migration to Facebook. Blogging is good for long essays especially if you have the sense to remain anonymous. FB is good because you can restrict who sees your posts so only trusted "friends" there can read your thoughts on hot-button topics.

      The things the Orthodox cry heresy about are either misunderstanding Catholic teachings (Fulton Sheen: people don't hate the church; they hate what they think it is) or mistaking cultural/disciplinary stuff for doctrine. A Russian to me once: "They believe the Pope isn't a sinner." His English wasn't good enough for him to understand my explanation or he just wasn't listening. The mindset (phronema if you will): "If it's not Byzantine, if it wasn't part of our empire or homeland, it's crap, even evil." Why Western Rite Orthodox self-byzantinize like crazy; even the very Latin St. Augustine's, Denver has turned the altar rail into a pseudo-iconostasis. I love Byzantium and their homelands (I know Russian but not fluently and can serve in Slavonic) but no.

      I recently was reminded of false vs. true ecumenism. For example we and the world's liberal Lutherans (not to be confused with conservative Lutherans) issuing a joint statement that justification was really a non-issue, so the supposed reason for the "Reformation" is moot, did bubkes. They're not back in the church. If anything, they're moving away from us. Ditto the Anglicans. Compare that to Catholics and evangelicals side by side in the culture wars. As Fr. Dwight Longenecker says, no big meetings between church leaders or showy statements; the two sides don't pretend there are no big differences. But they're brothers in Christ all the same. Ditto with who I call our close cousins, traditional Lutherans. And certainly so with the Christians we believe are sacramentally still a part of us; the Orthodox are estranged Catholics.

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  4. It is too simplistic to claim that Orthodox are saying that divorce and remarriage & contraception are "ok." Divorce and remarriage and contraception are often tolerated for exceptional reasons in the Orthodox Church without any teaching that either sin is acceptable in theory. This tolerance or leniency often means that, without believing that these actions are acceptable, they do not always break ones communion with the Church. This is predicated on the belief that not everyone who commits serious sins like divorce/remarriage and using birth control are condemned by God (and, according to the Orthodox, if they are not always condemned by God, why cannot the Church discern this and exercise leniency with them in this life while they "miss the mark," in certain cases?).

    The Catholic Church has a similar understanding with its understanding of mitigating circumstances that may decrease the culpability of those who commit objectively grave sins. Latin pastoral theology has a place for confessors to discern individuals' mitigating circumstances and exercise clemency for them as they struggle to live their Faith in the Church (according to pre-Vatican II moral theologian, Fr. John Ford, this may even include admission to Holy Communion without confessing objectively sinful actions beforehand). I'm not sure how this Roman Catholic understanding is fundamentally different from the practice of Orthodox oikonomia for divorce and remarriage & contraception.

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    1. Close but no go. Divorce and remarriage: "Sometimes adultery is okay, for pastoral reasons, but only two more times after the first marriage."

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  5. No, it is not okay, but not everybody gets excommunicated for it (excommunication in the Orthodox Church, like the early Church, means no reception of Holy Communion). I guess I don't understand the problem with the Orthodox leniency in this matter, or generally with the use of economy to handle certain other sins like contraception use, since I do not believe that God automatically condemns all those who objectively fall short of the standard of Christian living. If God may extend to sinners (even serious ones) the ultimate oikonomia of admitting them to heaven (always an affirmed possibility in Catholic moral theology since mitigating circumstances do reduce culpability for grave moral actions), despite their failures, I can respect a pastoral practice that carefully discerns this for sinners on earth and exercises leniency to avoid them leaving the Church or committing additional serious sins in a life of debauchery. If these people may possibly go to heaven despite missing the mark in their marital choices, who am I to mandate Orthodox priests to be more strict than Jesus?

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    1. "Sometimes adultery is okay" is bad moral theology.

      Economy is for rules, not faith or morals.

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    2. Right, because the annulments (for all kinds of technical reasons) of Roman Catholicism are SO MUCH better than the centuries old Eastern practice.

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    3. Centuries-old Eastern practice (not all non-Catholic Easterners are Orthodox, so which Easterners, all of them outside the church?) can't say 2 +2 = 5 or that sometimes adultery is okay "for pastoral reasons, but only twice." The Catholic Church's teaching about annulments is sound. Sometimes something was missing such as the bride or groom really giving consent, or someone lied about his or her intention getting married, such as being fertile but not wanting children, so there was no sacramental marriage. The church doesn't pretend adultery is okay because it can't. Nobody has that authority. The practices of the various Eastern rites are nice. They don't trump morals.

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  6. I agree. However, some of the rules, when strictly interpreted, would prevent those who undergo a divorce and remarriage from communing and otherwise being active members of the Church. The leniency of economy comes in by allowing these couples to continue to fully live in the Church without being excommunicated, as the canonical discipline would strictly require. Nobody has economy to believe that their divorce and remarriage is the ideal or standard of the Orthodox Church or to believe that their state of life is somehow something more than a failure to live as God requires. The same applies to other moral issues where economy is applied. It applies only to rules that govern ones communion with and in the Orthodox Church, not to what one may believe about faith or morals.

    Again, while this approach is not accepted by many Catholics, it simply applies a leniency that Catholic moral theology accepts, in principle. In the Catholic Church, not all those who commit mortal sins are fully culpable of their sins due to mitigating circumstances. This means that God will extend to some of these objective grave sinners a great leniency (even the ultimate economy) by allowing them to go to heaven, without these sinners ever living the ideal morality in their life or without their way of life ever becoming moral. If one believes in God using economy for those in second marriages and those using birth control (by admitting them to heaven in some cases), they really have no reason to believe that Orthodox clergy are peddling immorality through extending a similar economy through keeping such individuals in communion with the Church despite their moral failures. Before we reject this, be careful, God may just view these individuals more leniently that we are willing to view them.

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    1. Many times when Catholics say something's a mortal sin, they're using shorthand. They're referring to what moral theology calls grave matter: it's seriously wrong. For mortal sin, there are three criteria, grave matter, sufficient reflection (I know it's wrong or I even only think it's seriously wrong), and full consent of the will (I freely do it anyway). Actually this is more to do with our teaching on annulments. If you couldn't really give consent or were lying about staying in the marriage or life or, if fertile, being open to children, there is no sacramental marriage. Nobody can bless adultery, even a real bishop with a valid Eucharist, including the Pope. Ditto contraception.

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    2. The teaching on mitigating circumstances that may reduce culpability in those who commit grave sins does not apply to marriage annulments since inadequate consent in the matrimonial contract is a defect in the administration of a sacrament of the Church, not the attempted commission of a mortal sin. These are very different situations (to say the least!). No, in Latin moral theology, mitigating circumstances would apply to some of those who commit objective grave sins (e.g. divorce/remarriage and use of birth control), not those who attempt to perform a good (like administering a sacrament).

      As long as one believes in mitigating circumstances, he or she also believes in the possibility of God extending a great leniency to some couples who objectively sin in grave matters by both keeping them in a state of grace on the earth and later admitting them to heaven despite their moral failures. This logically also means that it is possible that Orthodox leniency in this life to some couples who are divorced and remarried or use birth control is actually what it claims to be – an expression of the divine clemency of God. How do you know that Orthodox leniency with some of the divorced/remarried or those using birth control is not simply the pastoral treatment of those with mitigating circumstances (to use Latin moral theology concepts)? You cannot because Latin moral theology does not completely define what exactly constitutes mitigating circumstances (actually, internal pressures on the will may very well be present in some divorced/remarried and those who use birth control in exceptional situations). Thus, the Orthodox grounds for leniency in divorce/remarriage and birth control may be covered by the Latin understanding of mitigating circumstances and would, therefore, be an ecclesial implementation of the leniency that God is currently extending to these individuals by keeping them in the state of grace.

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    3. Sophistry from likely a fallen-away Catholic. I'm not buying.

      Economy is for rules such as fasting, not morals.

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  7. The liberal annulment process in modern Catholicism risks reducing the Sacrament of Matrimony to complete subjectivity. For every couple that are judged as making inadequate consent at their wedding and have not grown in their Catholic Faith and thus request and receive an annulment, there are many other couples who make their vows with the same immaturity and are thus eligible for an annulment, but who have subsequently became devout Catholics, and attempt to live the grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony. I know that according to Latin canonical legislation, the marriages of the latter must be presumed valid in the external forum until an annulment is granted, but is the marriage of these latter couples who enter marriage with the same faulty intentions as other couples who request and get an annulment, really married? Did they really receive the grace of the sacrament of Matrimony? It looks like, in practice, ones marriage is valid if they want it to be. This makes the reception of a sacrament of the Church increasingly one of sentiment and feeling and not based on any objective administration of the Church.

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  8. "Constantinople and Moscow each claim the other is not the church."

    Occasional schisms between Churches are regrettable, but they don’t compromise catholicity since the first millennium witnessed such breaks of communion without historic Christianity or the Churches involved losing their claim to be one Church. Regarding how these disruptions look – they may indeed look like an undermining of the understanding of one entity existing fully in multiple locations (why is the one Church attacking itself?),but then again, so does the spectacle of Catholics attempting to avoid the Eucharist at the local Novus Ordo Mass to attend a more preferable celebration of the Eucharist in the rare ancient Roman Rite (are some Eucharists more complete than others?). In the world, ones faith in fullness of presence in multiple locations (whether of the Eucharist or the Church) may appear to be contradicted in practice due to people’s attempts to safeguard the purity of the one Eucharist (through opposing liturgical abuses in the Catholic Church) or to promote the authentic interests of the one Church (through opposing politicized disregard to needed Church organization in the Orthodox Church), but neither situation essentially compromises belief in the fullness of presence in many locations, whether of the one Eucharist or the one Church.

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    1. Knowledgeable Catholics who go to the traditional Roman Mass don't claim the Novus Ordo is outside the church, even though some services are better. Sectarians no longer really in the church do. To say the Novus Ordo is outside the church would be to deny the church's indefectibility. And it's simple really: who's your bishop? Is he under the Pope? In the Ukraine you have Moscow and Constantinople denying the other is in the church, thus denying that the other's sacraments have grace. There is no Orthodox Church, and this has proved it.

      You know our lingo. How long ago did you leave the church?

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  9. "Sophistry from likely a fallen-away Catholic. I'm not buying."

    You are welcome to disprove the logic, John. The existence of mitigating circumstances for grave sins, their lack of clear definition by the Catholic Church (especially as pertains to what constitutes a defect in free will), as well as their use by confessors in determining the subjective guilt of penitents (even to the point of allowing such penitents who commit objective grave sins, but with subjective guilt, to sometimes receive Holy Communion without first going to Confession), is basic Catholic moral theology. It is true that this is rarely put into conversation with Orthodox oikonomia for some moral issues, but it should be since both the Catholic and Orthodox practices operate on the belief that one's objective sins may lead to some cases of God and the Church exercising leniency with the treatment of these sinners. In fact, it is against Catholic teaching to believe that all those who commit objective sins are fully guilty of them since mitigating circumstances do exist and must not be discarded in making moral judgments. Again, I ask, if God can sometimes be lenient with serious sins, why cannot the Church?

    "Economy is for rules such as fasting, not morals."

    There are rules also for who receives Holy Communion and how one generally functions in the Church. This is the area where the relationship between economy and certain moral issues plays out, not whether something is moral or not.

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    1. No sale. The church can't wave away morals like it can dispense with fasting rules.

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  10. "Knowledgeable Catholics who go to the traditional Roman Mass don't claim the Novus Ordo is outside the church, even though some services are better."

    My point was that despite there being situations (like shopping for the "best" Mass) that may look like there are multiple Eucharists in the Catholic Church (some better or more complete than others) and periodic breaks in communion between Orthodox Churches that may look like there are multiple Orthodox Churches in Eastern Orthodoxy, neither practice violates each Church's understanding of its one Eucharist fully present in many places or one Church fully present in many locations. Rather, both the attempts to promote the celebration the Eucharist in organic continuity with the past (in Catholicism) or the stand against abuse of legitimate Church organization (in Orthodoxy) are acceptable attempts to safeguard the purity of the one Eucharist or the one Church. If Orthodox in-fighting destroys the oneness of the Orthodox Church, Catholic attempts to avoid one celebration of the Eucharist to attend another, destroys the oneness of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church. As it is, I believe neither do so and for the reason I mentioned above.

    "In the Ukraine you have Moscow and Constantinople denying the other is in the church, thus denying that the other's sacraments have grace. There is no Orthodox Church, and this has proved it."

    While I think you are overstating the extent of the disagreement between Moscow and Constantinople, it is true that in Orthodoxy a true schism between Churches can reach this level. Can a Church invalidate itself? According to Orthodoxy, it can, when the integrity of faith, canonical discipline, and communion is broken. This is similar to how a Catholic celebration of the Eucharist may effectively invalidate itself through association with questionable elements such as concelebration with those with no apostolic succession, use of questionable materials for consecration, and demonstratively doubtful intention of the celebrant. Traditional Catholic sacramental theology holds that any doubtful celebration of Mass is to be considered invalid, despite whether it actually is valid. Recognizing that one celebration of the Eucharist lacks the proper ingredients that make it a true Eucharist is perfectly acceptable and even good discipline to safeguard the integrity of the one Eucharist. Orthodox apply the same reasoning to the validity of a Church. Are such situations (of Eucharistic and Church validity) messy and unfortunate? Certainly. Are they impossible or somewhat a denial of the one Eucharist or the one Church? No, such judgments are necessary for the survival of the one Eucharist and the one Church.

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    1. Knowledgeable Catholics aren't claiming that the Novus Ordo isn't the Eucharist. In the Ukraine the two sides don't recognize each other's baptisms. Got links proving that's not so?

      Rather, both the attempts to promote the celebration the Eucharist in organic continuity with the past (in Catholicism) or the stand against abuse of legitimate Church organization (in Orthodoxy) are acceptable attempts to safeguard the purity of the one Eucharist or the one Church.

      Actually members in good standing of the side you have joined believe my baptism and Eucharist are at best worthless.

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    2. "In the Ukraine the two sides don't recognize each other's baptisms. Got links proving that's not so?"

      I was thinking of the relationship between Moscow and Constantinople, more generally. The two patriarchates do not reject each other's sacraments, as far as I know. However, relationships between the Constantinople-backed Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are quite different since the former is (IMO, rightly) considered a schismatic entity. Nevertheless, this lack of recognition does not extend generally to the parishes of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Patriarchate of Moscow.

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  11. "No sale. The church can't wave away morals like it can dispense with fasting rules."

    But the Church can exercise leniency with sinners who fall. God does no less by keeping some serious sinners in the state of grace.

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    1. It's called confession and absolution. Not saying adultery and contraception are okay. I'll stick to the magisterium, not the opinions of dissenting Catholics or the teachings of mainline Protestantism even if they're in Byzantine garb.

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    2. To be honest, if you go to Greece, Georgia, Romania, Serbia, and various places in Russia (not to mention other places where Orthodoxy is dominant), economy applied for contraception often takes the form of decreasing the mandatory penance of prohibiting one from Holy Communion after someone confesses the sin, rather than anything else. Sometimes, women who have an abortion when their life is in danger have their penance reduced in this manner. In my opinion, this is the form that economy is expected to take rather than any attempts to justify the sin of contraception.

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