Tuesday, January 27, 2004

A double feature
Part one: Cardinal Walter 'Don't count on people in Rome to defend the apostolic ministry' Kasper (Anglo-Catholics, call your office) is on a 'Mission to Moscow'; part two: Vladimir Zelinskij ('Walt Green', LOL) gives an RC readership a look at Eastern and particularly Russian Orthodoxy through Western spectacles. Fascinating.

The last clash between Rome and Moscow occurred over the Ukraine. The Orthodox patriarch of Moscow was infuriated at the idea of the Ukrainian Greek rite Catholic Church setting up a “rival” patriarch in Kiev.

That was uncharacteristically tactless of the Pope's men to do.

The current relationship between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, particularly between Moscow and Rome, is one of the most complicated chapters in the history of ecumenicalism. [...] Why isn’t the Catholic Church able to have real dialog with the Orthodox Church, despite feeling very close to the Orthodoxy in terms of its dogmatic and moral character?

Hysterical raisins as some hackers used to say. Russian xenophobia (St Alexander Nevsky vs. the Teutonic Knights, Boris Godunov vs. the Poles and all that). The Vatican II débàcle is just an extra spanner in the works. Though when one sees and hears Russian baroque music and church architecture, the whole city of St Petersburg and the art of the ballet pinched from the French and perfected, it seems that xenophobia is conveniently selective.

The overarching, sad, ironic thing in all this is the most admirable, religiously observant element in this church group often is most viciously anti-anybody else whilst the seemingly friendliest of the lot may really just want to join forces with the enemies of Catholic tradition in the West. Rather like in parts of the Middle East (right, Samer?) a desire to buy 'Christian literature' refers not to the Bible and G.K. Chesterton but Hustler!

To me, some of Mr Zelinskij's criticisms of the Orthodox sound suspiciously too much like Western critics of the Catholic tradition in general, East or West - 'drop that artsy old-fashioned stuff and get with the programme'.

There is also a third type of fundamentalism, that is, that of converts to Orthodoxy from other denominations. This group, probably the smallest, particularly involves Orthodox faithful from the West who deeply live and painfully feel the break with the past. For Catholics, it is almost a revival of the radicalism of the first Protestants who split from Rome. Ecumenicalism for these fundamentalists is none other than a dangerous mingling with “papism”. They believe that Orthodox from eastern countries participating in the ecumenical movement are naïve and unscrupulous.

Somebody's been reading up on the 15-years-on convert boomlet in the States, including the Indiana List (eek) and the bilious wannabe websites! But this is largely an ex-Evangelical Protestant phenom - people who've managed to take on board a form of the Catholic faith (creditably saying no thanks to mainstream RCism in the States) whilst continuing to vehemently deny anything in common with historic RCism. ('Your people call it corn, we call it maize'; you say 'Mother of God', we say 'Thay-oh-TOH-koss!'; tomayto, tomahto.) The petty narcissism of small differences. Almost comical.

It [the 'ecumenist' faction] attracts people searching for a cure-all for Orthodoxy’s “diseases”, found in unity with the Catholic Church. These “diseases” are namely fundamentalism, conservatism and closed-mindedness to contemporary society.

But that conservatism and rejection of parts of modernity are, no kidding, some of Orthodoxy's good points!

They [again, the 'ecumenist' faction] seek help in overcoming the autocracy of bishops who, in Russia and beyond, still identify only with pre-Tridentine practices.

But the Church of Russia's practices, as handed down, are complete 'as is' - 'entirely Catholic' as Archimandrite Serge (Keleher) writes, plus their being both very old and in part outside the usual arguments in the West (false oppositions like 'scripture vs. tradition' or 'faith vs. works') are advantages, not things to be badmouthed or thrown away!

Yet the most numerous and influential constituent, though rather silent, of any Orthodox Church is what may be called “traditionalist”...

Spot on. Reminds me of what Fr Lev (Gillet) wrote, and what C.S. Lewis (soul-profiting Catholic reading) wrote in Letters to an American Lady about the followers in the centre of each religious tradition being closest to each other than the fringe elements of any of them.

Traditional orthodoxy is faith incarnate.

И хор поет: Аминь, аминь, аминь.

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