Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Orthodox and church infallibility
From venuleius. Met. Kallistos (Timothy Ware) says early on in The Orthodox Church (wow; I read it 25 years ago!) that it believes in church infallibility like Rome does only minus the claims of the papacy (Ware again: they’re fine with the Pope himself, an ancient apostolic bishop). And as regular readers know, I’ve said infallibility is what distinguishes us Catholics from, say, liturgical Protestants who agree with us on the creeds, the Mass and the sacraments but with a weak eccclesiology; it’s all on their terms not the church’s, or they happen to agree with us but they’re not fully in the church. Infallibility means less power than a fallible church claims since our doctrine is not up for revision by vote, an absolute power the Pope doesn’t claim.

Fine, so how does that play out among the Orthodox?

A few of my riffs on the Orthodox:
  • A communion of ethnic-based traditional churches, the most natural thing in the world... surprisingly very little to do with each other (less than the Anglican Communion for example; in both cases the churches are all independent of each other)... yet amazingly the same wherever you find them, and it’s definitely not mainline liberal.
  • A grassroots traditionalism (their sort of mystical, invisible magisterium, like how the faithful ratify councils by ‘receiving’ them), which is great because that and the disorganization mean a Vatican II overhaul is impossible there and would meet heavy resistance if anybody were dumb enough to try it. Iconostasis and eastward-facing forever.
  • Very little defined doctrine: Trinity and hypostatic union (Jesus is God and man) so Mother of God and pictures of God and the saints are OK. And you’re done. Entirely Catholic. Of course they believe in the Mass and the intermediate state for the dead, just to give two examples, but... no heresy denying it in the East so no defined doctrine defending it.
  • One of v’s past points: really all you need to be Orthodox is to believe in some sacramental principles and basic Christian morality, and to know some basic public piety. Not the converts’ ‘It’s a completely different religion!’ mumbo-jumbo.
  • To Western minds they shouldn’t exist. Communism and the 20th century should have done them in. They’re weak in the West... but they’re still here.
  • Their modern copout on contraception sounds just like Protestants: like evangelicals today and ’50s mainliners, cautious, conservative and plausible. Paul VI was a disaster but he held the line on that front.
  • Them and Rome: sacramentally the same but the Pope-scope thing’s an inch wide and infinitely deep. Union won’t happen unless all of one side caves. Won’t happen. (Like infallible vs fallible means forget union talks with Protestants. Let’s just teach our position to the other side so we don’t kill each other.)
  • Want to be Orthodox? Bypass the convert-testimonial/monkabee/mom message boards and blogs with fasting recipes and instead hang out with Greeks or Russians.

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