Friday, August 29, 2014

Nice Orthodox

A Catholic turned Orthodox writes:
I follow the example of St Silouan in his response to a zealous archimandrite in the Orthodox Church:
Father Silouan’s attitude towards those who differed from him was characterised by a sincere desire to see what was good in them, and not to offend them in anything they held sacred. He always remained himself, he was utterly convinced that ‘salvation lies in Christ-like humility’, and by virtue of this humility he strove with his whole soul to interpret every man at his best. He found his way to the heart of everyone to his capacity for loving Christ.

I remember a conversation he had with a certain Archimandrite who was engaged in missionary work. This Archimandrite thought highly of the Staretz and many a time went to see him during his visits to the Holy Mountain. The Staretz asked him what sort of sermons he preached to people. The Archimandrite, who was still young and inexperienced gesticulated with his hands and swayed his whole body, and replied excitedly, ‘I tell them, Your faith is all wrong, perverted. There is nothing right, and if you don’t repent, there will be no salvation for you.’

The Staretz heard him out, then asked, ‘Tell me, Father Archimandrite, do they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He is the true God?’
‘Yes, that they do believe.’
‘And do they revere the Mother of God?’
‘Yes, but they are not taught properly about her.’
‘And what of the Saints?’
‘Yes, they honour them but since they have fallen away from the Church, what saints can they have?’
‘Do they celebrate the Divine Office in their churches? Do they read the Gospels?’
‘Yes, they do have churches and services but if you were to compare their services with ours—how cold and lifeless theirs are!’
‘Father Archimandrite, people feel in their souls when they are doing the proper thing, believing in Jesus Christ, revering the Mother of God and the Saints, whom they call upon in prayer, so if you condemn their faith they will not listen to you ... But if you were to confirm that they were doing well to believe in God and honour the Mother of God and the Saints; that they are right to go to church, and say their prayers at home, read the Divine word, and so on; and then gently point out their mistakes and show them what they ought to amend, then they would listen to you, and the Lord would rejoice over them. And this way by God’s mercy we shall all find salvation ... God is love, and therefore the preaching of His word must always proceed from love. Then both preacher and listener will profit. But if you do nothing but condemn, the soul of the people will not heed you, and no good will come of it.’
From Saint Silouan the Athonite, by Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov) (Essex, England: Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist, 1991), pp. 63-65.
Flip the sides and this is true. There are lots of nice Orthodox; ethnic, knowing who they are, and having nothing to prove.

The fellow who posted this wrote:
I was born to a Roman Catholic family and baptized as an infant but was largely unfamiliar with the Latin rite to be honest since I was born post Vat. II and from the time I was young, we went to a Greek Catholic parish until I became an adult... I became Orthodox not because of my issues with the papacy. I still have a great deal of admiration for the popes. I loved JPII and basically grew up with him. In fact I've seen two popes in my lifetime in person — Paul VI as a child, and John Paul II in my youth... My own issues were somewhat more 'practical' and less 'theological' in nature. The filioque (or rather "lack of it") was not something of an issue for me since as a Byzantine Catholic, we did not recite it. For me it was about the availability of the parishes and sacraments. Look into most phone books in any given town and you'd be hard pressed to find a Greek Catholic parish and that was my first issue... Second was the calendar or rather 'paschalion'. I often went to my parish and celebrated ours and then visited an Orthodox just to celebrate it with them later when most of the Eastern Churches celebrated it (I was not well aware of Greek Catholics who celebrated Pascha according to the Julian paschalion)... Also, another issue for me was that in the Greek Catholic parishes, I was always considered an 'outsider' and a 'Latin' because I was not baptized into the same rite and they were mostly from that tradition because of heritage, in the Orthodox Church, I knew that although there were ethnic parishes too, that Orthodoxy had been established worldwide among non-European peoples for generations and the way the missions were established were quite different from the way Roman Catholics missionized many peoples (i.e. Russians among the Native peoples of Alaska). I still have a great respect for my Catholic sisters and brothers, including the Latins, as my family is mostly and devoutly Catholic. We pray together at home — including the rosary when my mother was alive. I know there are 'differences' and many will judge me from both sides and misunderstand me. I've been questioned by people from the Latin side who questioned my 'catholicity'; as well as Orthodox who have called me a 'uniate' at heart (using it as a pejorative, I believed). I'm ok with that... I pray and wait for the hierarchs to decide and come to some unity in my lifetime, but I won't hold my breath... If the arguments in this group are any indication... (and the reactions I've gotten or lack of support from people), then it may be a long time indeed before we work out our differences... If I have ever said anything to offend anyone, I ask their forgiveness. God bless.
I understand converting as you did, out of love for the rite and wanting to be "the real thing" in it, because, after all, it IS the Orthodox rite. But of course I don't agree with doing so, because even if you're nice, like you and St. Silouan, you've turned your back on us, denying we are in any sense the church, because that's a valid opinion in Orthodoxy. Stopped kidding myself about that many years ago and took a long walk home.

The Byzantine Rite is better than the Novus Ordo, but a Catholic becoming Orthodox is worshipping a rite instead of God.
I am saddened and sorry that you feel that you feel I have "turned my back on you," or that I "deny" you are in any sense "the church", because that's not me, nor has it ever been my opinion nor feeling. You can ask anyone — any Catholic (or non-Catholic) who has known me all my life. Having said that, I understand why you feel the way you do as many who have converted to Orthodoxy from the See of Rome, have felt as if they have and no longer identify as such, even "in spirit" with their Catholic sisters and brothers, Latin or otherwise. I have never turned my back on Rome or those in communion with her. We have a mural icon of Saint Peter at the parish I attend currently, next to Christ, and on the other side St Paul. I always kiss the foot of the Apostle Peter, as I once kissed the old worn-out foot of his statue in the Basilica named for him in Rome... others may not understand, but St Peter does. That I may not be 'officially' in communion with those who fill the shoes of that fisherman, is not for anyone else to judge... God may yet bring me in union with them some day... When St John Paul II passed from this life, my brother (a Roman Catholic) and I both drove over an hour away to the Cathedral in Los Angeles to attend a memorial service for him. A reporter asked us in an interview for a paper why we drove so far. We simply said: "Because we grew up with him as the Pope of Rome and want to honour his memory as is befitting him." If his current successor would come to visit my town and were I blessed enough to approach him, I would kiss his ring as any Catholic, then introduce myself as an Orthodox brother: let others talk as they wish. Forgive me.
God forgives. I tried being like that too. I think you might come back, because in your heart of hearts you know we are the church.
We are the Church! ...we just happen to be broken at the moment. We mortals only know 'moments'... remember that, John, but God knows and understands eternity. To Him, eternity is but a moment. ...something to think about.
The trouble with well-meant "we're all schismatics" or "the church is broken" or "we're both the church" is they really mean "there is no church," which neither Catholicism nor Orthodoxy teaches. It's not fair to us or to the church you've embraced. However, it resembles us more than them, because we hold that they are an estranged part of us, with no heretical doctrine and having bishops and the Mass. Doctrinally, they are agnostic about us: they are the church, period. Someday you will have to choose between us and them.

Someone else chimed in:
It only looks like that to those that wear blinkers, John.
Sounds gnostic and Masonic: the churches' teachings are for the dumb masses while the enlightened have the real brotherhood. No, thanks. I'd rather be a boring old Roman Catholic.

Meanwhile, unlatinized Byzantine Catholicism seems to have an agent provocateur or at least has shot itself in the foot:
Simply put: we do not care a whit what the Latin view is on anything. Go in peace, brothers, but GO!
That board, with its fantasy church (gnostic pseudo-brotherhood) in Byzantine garb, neither Catholic nor Orthodox, really HATES unlatinized Byzantine Catholicism, as it does latinized, and I imagine doesn't really like the Orthodox either. Fake religion is a lifestyle accessory for one's wonderful self.

Disappointing from the parish priest of St. Michael's Russian Catholic Church in New York, which I've been to several times and have always recommended. Size doesn't matter; truth does. This obscure jurisdiction seems to "get it": they love everything Orthodox except schism. At least they seemed to until I read this.

Better: Bitten by the Golden Bow-Wow: Pitfalls of East/West dialogue. Anti-Western snobbery. Yes, I respect the rite but the Mass is the Mass, for example.


  1. Are you denying that the Catholic Church is in schism, John?

    1. So VII does not exist for you?

    2. Like some well-meaning Orthodox you've fallen for the liberal misreading of Vatican II. Catholicism can't change defined doctrine so Vatican II didn't even try. While everything in church polity except the papacy and the episcopate is negotiable, Catholicism still teaches it is the true church.

    3. “According to John Beeler the Catholic Church is NOT in Schism, and is the only one and true Church. If this is true, then we might as well give up and close this group down. Your thoughts?”

    4. If it misrepresents the teachings of either Catholicism or Orthodoxy by denying their true-church claims, then to hell with it. Shut 'er down.

    5. That is the point, they are both the true Church, that means schism, yet that is what you deny.

    6. Relativistic nonsense that's insulting to both churches.

    7. Fr. Augustine9:41 am

      We need to change the viewpoint here...... This is ONE CHURCH, ruptured. The "trick" is to heal the rupture. It's not about "good guys vs bad guys", or about the historical, political, polemic. Its about WHAT WE DO NOW..... to heal the rupture.

    8. The two sides aren't equally the church, Father, but as I say, everything in church polity except the papacy and the episcopate is negotiable. That's the foundation of Catholic/Orthodox dialogue.

  2. "The trouble with well-meant "we're all schismatics" or "the church is broken" or "we're both the church" is they really mean "there is no church," which neither Catholicism nor Orthodoxy teaches. It's not fair to us or to the church you've embraced. However, it resembles us more than them, because we hold that they are an estranged part of us, with no heretical doctrine and having bishops and the Mass. Doctrinally, they are agnostic about us: they are the church, period. Someday you will have to choose between us and them. "

    Very well said.

  3. Part I: Apologies for responding to this post/comments three years late but . . .

    "We need to change the viewpoint here...... This is ONE CHURCH, ruptured. The "trick" is to heal the rupture. It's not about "good guys vs bad guys", or about the historical, political, polemic. Its about WHAT WE DO NOW..... to heal the rupture."

    If East and West are merely ruptured but essentially one, where does one find the (big C) Church? The Orthodox will say in the "Orthodox Church" whilst the Romans and Uniates will say the "Roman Catholic Church/union with the See of Saint Peter". Can the Church be found among certain groups that hold--even in the barest manner--the essentials of the faith once delivered? Examples might be those strange vagante groups, Anglo-Catholic (sort of vagante), orthodox/confessional Lutherans (some of whom do indeed have bishops), etc.

    I believe it was KALLISTOS Ware who wrote that while the Church is itself "the Orthodox Church", She cannot say where the Church is not. Of course, he means that the Holy Spirit can be active in the hearts of those who sincerely seek God and strive to live a holy life. But what of us who have been on the journey but find ourselves still conflicted? Who have prayerfully studied history, philosophy and theology but waffle back and forth?

    I have a number of personal issues. I have Asperger's Syndrome. I developed a neuropathic pain disorder (RSD/CRPS) after a work injury in 2000 and have spent the past seventeen years in severe pain. At one point I was wheelchair bound. I was raised in a non-denominational Christian household (ex-Catholic father, anti-Catholic mother). I flirted with the Episcopal Church, charmed by Anglo-Catholicism but put off by the liberal element (back in the 90's). I ended up in a wacky vagante group (the Charismatic Episcopal Church) for a few years, almost got married but called it off when she--a Baptist woman--could not agree that our children be baptized as infants. At the same time, I was close to converting to the Roman Church and even started RCIA. But then I started to question my decision, eventually became an a catechumen in the Orthodox Church, and got caught up in hyper-traditionalism which frustrated me to no end because it was beginning to appear that the Church certainly existed nowhere near me! (And yes, Fr Seraphim Rose and the brothers of his monastic community in Platina had something to do with that. Mostly, they convinced me that even they had sold out).

    Part II coming up.

  4. Part II: I became confused, sad, and disgusted: true despondency. I grew angry at God for allowing the Church to become so great a mess. But I pulled it together for a while and went back to the Orthodox. Shortly thereafter, my ex-fiance called to tell me that she had been reading and decided to become Orthodox (at the time, we had never really discussed it so I was quite surprised!). Then in 2006, I went back to the Romans, though I had been occasionally attending Mass for a while. In 2007, I was received into the Roman Catholic Church by Confirmation and was fervently Roman Catholic until I got caught up in hyper-traditionalism (SSPX/CMRI/"Independent") and eventually fell into despair again. It didn't last as long this time; Anglo-Catholicism still has it's charms . . . for several years I made it a habit to read the Divine Office daily from the 1928 BCP and eventually was received into the Anglican Catholic Church by Metropolitan Haverland in 2012. In 2013, my health declined, I underwent emergency surgery to remove an implanted medical device (spinal cord stimulator) and ended up in a wheelchair. Later that year I underwent intense physical therapy and found doctors who actually helped rather than just give me more pills to swallow, and now I walk with just a cane.

    During that time, I could no longer make the drive to Mass at the ACC parish, and had begun to study the Lutheran Confessions. I read the whole thing, with commentary, and began attending a local LCMS congregation that had Mass every week (a rarity among the LCMS now) and a mostly traditional service. Maybe it was my recovery and having my pain under better control, but I felt happy there and was received--two years after my reception into the ACC!--into the LCMS. I had a young traditionalist friend there who is now in seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Once again I became disillusioned, and simply . . . walked away. I started praying the Rosary again, and began attending an SSPX parish (I guess I am lucky I live within 20 minutes of one), but felt that same sense of despondency. The SSPX, like the Orthodox, want me properly baptized, and truth to tell, I have often questioned the validity of my protestant baptism, further complicating all these convoluted feelings of mine. (Perhaps it is feelings that are the trouble?) Earlier this year, I began entertaining Orthodoxy again, but it is so painful to me. While I am comfortable with the Tridentine Mass, I am very uncomfortable with the Roman Church as it is today, especially with Francis as pope. And I worry that my hyper-traditionalism would come in to wreck my progress in the spiritual life . . . but so is my waffling. Go figure.

    Part II to come.

  5. Part III: On the other hand, Orthodoxy is appealing to me (traditional faith, doctrine, etc) but like you, I believe Roman Catholic moral dogma to be the gold standard and will not compromise on that wherever I am, so Orthodoxy's look-the-other-way policy is disturbing to me. The cultural aspect is also a bit of a bar for me as well; as much as I appreciate the Byzantine rite, the hyper-Greek/Russian/Serbian etc nationalism can be very off-putting. Cultural pride is a good thing, and I am proud of my Scots-Irish blood. But that should never become part-and-parcel of the faith.

    And so, once more I feel as if I am in No-man's-land. On top of this I have discovered over the last few months that my pain responds best to cannabis (aka Marijuana). I had been taking Marinol (synthetic THC capsules) but the insurance company will no longer pay for it and whole-plant cannabis works much better for me. I am not a hippie liberal pot head by any means; but I do need to control my pain. This discovery further complicates matters because most would either judge me for my use if they knew and might also think that I am not committed to the Faith, which couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, cannabis has helped me reduce the amount of alcohol I consume, which is certainly a good thing because, I’ll be honest, I was drinking way too much for a while there.

    I didn’t mean to write so much, but if you have read these comments, thank you, and pray for me, a sinner.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. It's confusing out there, more so 30 years ago when most Catholic churches in America were in bad shape. Stories like yours are a reason I'm fascinated by what I call alterna-Catholicisms, our closest relatives, and often bitter rivals too (the super-strict among the Orthodox). I admit they do some things better than many of us do: the close community of some congregations and the grassroots traditionalism. In everything that's not doctrine we can learn from others.


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