Thursday, October 02, 2014

Orthodox converts' and OicwRs' mirror worship: when the phronema becomes an idol

Ben: From a letter to a friend today: "It is true that with respect to ecumenism, I take what some people would call a hard line: I think it requires nothing less than the eventual acceptance of the whole body of Catholic dogma by all Christians. But I don’t say this in order to be uncompromising for its own sake; rather, I simply don’t see how anything less could be squared with the Catholic Church’s (inspired) understanding of herself.

"In this regard, a lot of 'ecumenical dialogue' strikes me the same way much modern theology does: ineffectual talk, geared not toward the truth of things but toward the endless consideration of 'views' in their mutual relations. And some of my fellow Greek-Catholics, strange to say, seem more interested in flirting with the denial of Catholic dogmas than in demonstrating their compatibility with our tradition."

Gabriel: Well, of course. Isn't that the entire "Orthodox in Communion with Rome" concept in a nutshell? What I want to know is when that even became a thing historically. When I was growing up in the Eastern Catholic wing of the Church, it would have been unthinkable to try to so self-consciously align with Orthodoxy in an effort to repudiate what we professed as Catholics. Then again, I grew up in two relatively isolated pockets of Eastern Catholicism, and being young and all, I wasn't really privy to the "higher" discussions and/or quarrels of the day.

Kevin: Is it really that strange? Saul sought to define the Kingdom he was given by God on his own terms. It's the great lesson of the Old Testament Kings: they attempted to define for themselves what the Kingdom's mission was. I've always understood ecumenism as doing what we can to make unity a reality, without compromising the integrity of the faith. But ecumenism must have an end game.

Gabriel: I should add here that when I returned to Catholicism in 2011, I self-consciously distanced myself from the ecclesial wing of my youth simply because I wanted to find stability in the Latin wing. After having some sense that I couldn't maintain that in good conscience, I started to dip into both "realms" for a bit, but I was unsettled by what I found in (admittedly American, and mostly convert) Eastern Catholicism: A near-pathological disdain for being Catholic despite a strange refusal to flip Orthodox. It took me awhile to even come close to understanding what was going on, and to be honest, I am still not sure that I can claim to understand it. I suspect my general dissatisfaction with the entire posture is one reason why I tend to remain sympathetic to those pockets of Eastern Catholics who hold on to their so-called "Latinizations." I have no doubts about their loyalty or what they are trying to do.

Ben: "Isn't that the entire 'Orthodox in Communion with Rome' concept in a nutshell?"

I think there are people who perhaps use that terminology with different meanings. Certainly a small group of people, overrepresented on the Internet, seem to mean it in that problematic way (which John Beeler has been calling out lately); but others may be using such language, not to veil doctrinal dissent, but to express their adherence to the Byzantine tradition in an authentic, un-Latinized form. Whether that is prudent (on account of the other group, or other concerns) is another question.

Soloviev seems to have seen himself as something like an "OicwR" in that second sense; reportedly, his self-description was "I am both Catholic and Orthodox." He was in no way Latinized, and went out of his way to show this (by only receiving the Eucharist at the context of the Byzantine Liturgy, for instance). But when Soloviev entered the Church - and this is documented in a two-volume biography - he made the *Tridentine* profession of faith. That is a remarkable indication that he consciously accepted everything dogmatically taught by the Catholic Church.

Gabriel: Well, I agree that there are different shades of OICWR out there, but the call for Eastern Catholics to live out their lives in continuity with their patrimony is as old as St. Pius X. That it took some decades to get there, especially after the communist and Orthodox persecutions, isn't surprising. I don't begrudge those Eastern Catholics, specifically Ukrainians, who want to hold onto their "Latinizations" because for a time they were distinguishing marks that kept their identity distinct from the Orthodox. That era is fading out, though, and as I have written about before, it makes me a bit sad, though largely for sentimental reasons. That was the Eastern Catholicism I was brought up on and I for one don't think it was quite as bad as certain folks like to pretend. So it goes.

Ben: "I agree that there are different shades of OICWR out there, but the call for Eastern Catholics to live out their lives in continuity with their patrimony is as old as St. Pius X."

Absolutely. Which I think is wonderfully significant.

Don't Latinize. And don't be a modernist - by saying that dogmas can become obsolete, or change their meaning, or cease to apply to you and yours - either.

Gabriel: I don't like the term "Latinization" generally, though it, too, has different shades of meaning.

Ben: (To be clear, I am not saying that Latinization is as bad as the actual, literal, damnable heresy of Modernism.)
Thanks for the shout-out. Gabriel, as you know from my blog, the first Eastern Christians I knew well were Ukrainian Catholics in America 30 years ago and they were exactly as you describe, not odd in their church at all. Ditto the Ruthenian-Americans 25 years ago. The OicwRs are much overrepresented on the Internet, and I think I've finally figured them out. They want to flip us all Orthodox from within, thinking they can talk us into chucking our post-schism doctrine. Then they play on our teaching recognizing both sides' sacraments; they want to ask the Orthodox to receive us all economically, including holy orders. That's nice; no thanks. There is unlatinized Greek Catholicism that's really Catholic; I think the OicwRs are their mortal enemy. I'm Roman Rite because those are my roots partly as a born Anglican, Orthodox anti-Westernism turned me off so much, as do the OicwRs who are the self-styled mouthpieces of Greek Catholicism online (I don't think most ethnics care about the Internet), and while I would love it if the dominant Catholicism in America were Byzantine, not Novus Ordo, it just isn't happening. I don't think Greek Catholicism has a future here in the long term. Not by Catholic design; it just is. I've been kicked off for saying mother church gives us both the unlatinized and latinized forms of the Byzantine Rite: "A near-pathological disdain for being Catholic" as Gabriel says. Soloviev wasn't an OicwR as we know the term but an unlatinized Greek Catholic convert: he wanted to work from within to flip Russia Catholic.
Gabriel: I split the difference and perform the Stations of the Cross in my Latin parish with my Slavonic Ukrainian prayer book. I'm all about maintaining bridges no one wants to cross anymore.
Then there's ACROD, which breaks my heart. I've been to one of their old parishes that was ours and I don't think I can handle doing that again. They had their monsignori and First Communions for decades after leaving; obviously these dear people didn't want to leave. They were pushed out for no good reason.
Jessica: Ben, which dogmas are you referring to that some Greek-Catholics deny? John, which church do you belong to, I couldn't tell by your comments, and Gabriel. you're Latin now, right?
Jessica, the dissenter Greek Catholics want to dump everything the Catholic Church has declared since the schism: transubstantiation, the Immaculate Conception, papal infallibility, and the Assumption, reducing defined doctrine to what Orthodoxy holds. I am a Roman Catholic, a moderate traditionalist (Tridentine Mass most of the time).
(Deleted comments.)
Oh, no; the OicwRs had to crash THIS conversation too.

Regarding Prokopovich (who?) and Mohila, I've said something similar about ROCOR; the Greeks adopted scholasticism too. In their case, exactly; "refute the Latins on their own terms." ROCOR hates us because they try so hard to be us.
"You're equating latinizations with Catholic identity - as if to be Catholic entails, at some level, a Latin trait. Disgusting."
I've never denigrated the unlatinized form of the Byzantine Rite so I have no idea what you're referring to. As for putting down latinizations, I'd LOVE to have had you meet the Ukrainian exiles I knew 30 years ago. Say that sh*t to their faces, and I'll call the ambulance for you.
"We don't want to 'dump' anything, only to maintain the Orthodox faith of our fathers and hierarchs inviolate, without mixing practices or thoughts alien to it."
Fine. Convert. We're not leaving.
Ben: And, yes, the problem is what John says: those who would, in effect, make dogmas defined after 1054 - dogmas which are by definition, in the self-understanding of Catholicism, NOT at all "new doctrines" but simply clarifying articulations of the apostolic faith held since day one - into something like "permissible theological opinions of the Western tradition."

Jessica: Ben, are you in agreement with what John said here? "Jessica, the dissenter Greek Catholics want to dump everything the Catholic Church has declared since the schism: transubstantiation, the Immaculate Conception, papal infallibility, and the Assumption, reducing defined doctrine to what Orthodoxy holds."

Ben: I've run into that or at least versions of it, yes. And, again, I just want to make clear that this has zero to do with Latinization. You can shave the beard off my dead body.
My guess is dissenter Greek Catholics are still a minority of Greek Catholics, most of whom are ethnic and most of whom would die to remain Catholic (the Ukraine).
Jessica: So you think we as Eastern Catholics must believe in the Immaculate Conception, papal infallibility, etc.?

Ben: Jessica, it's not even remotely about what "I think."
Yes, but, Jessica. The unlatinized school of Greek Catholicism is legitimate. Catholics believe we can translate those doctrines into Orthodox lingo; there is no reason for the schism. Orthodox and their OicwR fifth column disagree.
Ben: Respectfully, I think the untenable "syncretizing" position is the one that acts and speaks as if Christ equally founded two different Churches and two different religions that now stand in need of some alchemical transformation into one.
Right; the unlatinized Byzantine Rite is perfectly good but the sin of the Orthodox and the OicwRs is they make an idol of it over against the church.
Ben: Jessica - again, with all respect, it's not about what I think (or what any private person thinks) because it's about whether there is an identifiable visible Church that actually teaches in the name of Christ as it claims to.
"But that Church is as equally Greek as it is Latin." True but you have to choose: do our doctrines translate into Byzantinese or are we frauds? There is only one church; we believe the Orthodox are only an estranged part of us, because we believe our post-schism doctrines are compatible. Deny our doctrines? Then one should become Orthodox. Because you're not Catholic.
Ben: Just as CS Lewis said about Jesus Himself: the Catholic Church's authority claims are so audacious that it can't be either slightly wrong, or one valid option among many (or even two or three). Catholicism either is what it claims to be, or it's a wicked delusion. Like the old professor said to me, "She's either the Bride of Christ or the Whore of Babylon."

Faith understands that her claims are true, just as the Lord's are
Name one post or comment where I've put down the unlatinized form of the Greek Rite, including its thought. Not to be confused with schismatic Orthodox opinion. "We define our terms so subtly yet so importantly different than you." Spiritual pride. As Gabriel said, a pathological disdain for being Catholic. Get it into your phronema: we are not interested in converting to Orthodoxy.

Right, Ben.
Ben: "When we deny the IC or purgatory, we are still affirming the same truths the Latin Church teaches." Then one either isn't really "denying" the dogmas, or one isn't really affirming the truths.
"Does not apply to the East" = "the church no longer teaches." Ecumenical Orthodox seem nice but they're really playing on a liberal misreading of Vatican II, that Catholicism no longer teaches it's the true church. The OicwRs buy that too. Both are trying to leverage it to get us into what they think is the true church.

OicwR is libcath with a cool liturgy. Literally to hell with it.

Any community that preaches OicwR should be suppressed immediately. Unlatinized Greek Catholics who are really Catholic, on the other hand...

"Then one either isn't really 'denying' the dogmas, or one isn't really affirming the truths." Exactly.
Ben: "Any community that preaches OicwR should be suppressed immediately." I've spoken about this issue with Abbot Nicholas, of Holy Resurrection Monastery, and he has assured me that he does not regard defined Catholic dogmas in the problematic way that some self-described "Orthodox in communion" do.

Beni (not to be confused with Ben): No thanks, Ben. No thanks, John. I side with James and Jessica here. Orthodox in the communion with Rome. Byzantine Christian of Sicilian ancestry most accurately. I hope we act as whom we really are and not whom we are told to be, and then show love towards each other, without lying. That will bring the greater peace amongst us.
I never assumed he did, Ben. That's great. Beni, I defend both forms of the Byzantine Rite, unlatinized and latinized. Dissent from doctrine's not an option, no matter which school of thought in the church you belong to.
Ben: None of this is about Latinization or having a different tradition forced on us. If the Church truly speaks *with the authority of God* on a certain matter - a true dogma of faith - and you say "We don't believe that in 'the East,'" then the one you are defying is God and you will be answerable to Him.

Beni: Ben, the older a man gets, the less he will profess to know. Wisdom is an old man's pleasure.

Ben: "Only if East and West speak univocally." I'm sorry, but as far as I can tell this is simply your private theory (shared by a small contingent of others) about the conditions under which the Church can or cannot teach with authority. As such, it does not seem to be qualitatively different from anyone else's private theory on that subject. Or any more legitimate. "Ben, the older a man gets, the less he will profess to know." If a man "evolves" to the point of no longer holding the entire Catholic Faith with integrity, then he's not wise at all. You can call me whatever you like, but what I'm defending here is not a private opinion.

Again, with all personal respect to the individuals in this discussion, some of what has been said about "phronema" in this conversation reflects exactly the problem I was trying to highlight in the letter to my friend: "ineffectual talk, geared not toward the truth of things but toward the endless consideration of 'views' in their mutual relations."

But what are dogmas? Newman - a man undeniably well-versed in the Eastern Fathers, whose whole approach to the faith is universal and patristic - gives the best concise definition I have ever seen: "supernatural truths irrevocably committed to human language, imperfect because it is human, but definitive and necessary because given from above."

Beni: Have you considered your own talk as ineffectual?

Ben: Sure, who hasn't? But I am at least trying, effectually or not, to talk about the reality of things themselves, in such a way that their primacy over anyone's individual or collective _phronema_ is maintained. Beni: Don't bend or exploit Greek. φρόνημα can be great holiness, too. The Roman patriarch understands this, as have all of the good ones.
An Eastern phronema is in itself good but the Orthodox and OicwRs have made an idol of it. All fake religion is self-centered.
Kevin: The issue of purgatory is instructive: is "purgatory doesn't apply to us" a way of saying "yes, there is something after death under which we change from our last nanosecond on earth to the first nanosecond in heaven, but there's a heck of a lot more to it than satispassio which is very limiting" that's one thing. In some of the limited discussion ive had, to even talk about it in that context is to be "opposed to the eastern perspective."

Now hey, as a Latin trad, I'm kinda used to titles causing misunderstanding (some view trad as a way to reject Vatican II root and branch but not all or even the majority) but its still something worth asking without bile and rancor.
I think you know the answers.

"From an outsider perspective: can things like papal infallibility be understood 'from an Eastern perspective' and still say that when it comes down to it, the Bishop of Rome is infallible under x and y, even if there are serious reservations about how such authority is exercised?"

That's Catholic.

"Or is said 'Eastern perspective' a way to say 'you're the King? WELL I DIDN'T VOTE FOR YOU!' And to more or less completely ignore the Pope and treat any papal intervention, doctrinal or otherwise as suspect?"

That's the OicwRs' theology, which is not Catholic.


  1. Dang, I miss the best stuff. Where is this thread from, pray tell? Thanks in advance!

    1. Someone's Facebook post.

    2. Can you PM the link to me, if it's OK with "someone"? (I am FB friends with Gabriel, BTW, but I have no clue who Ben or Jessica may be. :))

      BTW--that "double truth" thing drives me nuts. So Our Lady is sinless in the West but not in the East? She crosses a particular geographical boundary -- the Bosphorus, say -- and suddenly she's a sinner (or at least conceived with sin)?

      Truth is truth, irrespective of culture and geography. Sure, as you say, you can couch the dogmas in non-Latin / non-Western terms. But you can't chuck them, because, well, they're true. And truth is truth, no matter what, no matter where....

  2. Anonymous3:57 pm

    We have a better chance of growing the Greek Catholic Church now ... In some ways. In my own parish there has only been an English liturgy for maybe 25 years (I think). The web opens up a lot to the seekers, also. We are getting more due after VII, and making progress on restoring the married priesthood. And we offer a decidedly non-bourgeois alternative ... If anyone had heard of us. Give us ten more Fr. Loyas, and we would be huge.

  3. As the "Kevin" in the discussion, I enjoyed it. Some of the responses I saw were interesting, but I also think unsatisfying in the end.

    Yet I also noticed an interesting disconnect. We all know the disconnect between what we experience on the internet and in the parishes. You run into a lot of loud jerk traditionalists online, but you really gotta search em out to find them in the parishes. (Search or bait them, which is never a good thing.) My experience with Eastern parishes is limited, but I really don't see a lot of the anti-roman animus in the byzantine parishes I visit. Most of em have been friendly with me. They don't view St. Pius X the "holy village idiot" as one of the people in that thread had in the past.

    They've mostly been friendly to the good latins who they come across. Sure, they want their own identity preserved, but they aren't jerks about it. Among some (I don't know enough to say "most" or quantify it) of those I've come across online, they don't really believe the Church has to breathe with two lungs. They believe the Roman one is more or less full of lung cancer. Is isn't just that they have their own traditions which need to be respected, including their theological understandings. Instead, anything that might have been influenced by a good Christian in the West is "Latin" or "Roman", and they mean it as a four letter word.

    I have no clue how prominent it is or isn't. It doesn't make it any less annoying.

    1. You're right; the pathology (loud jerk trads and dissenting, disloyal, anti-Western Greek Catholics) is mostly an Internet phenomenon you don't see in the parishes.


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