Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Orthodoxy's a cultish knockoff of Catholicism, and more

  • Orthodoxy's a cultish knockoff of Catholicism. Fr. Seraphim (Rose) was a genius who made many of the same points as traditionalists; too bad he ended up in a cult that thought it was the church. You mean ROCOR? Yes, and Orthodoxy generally: just because of politics and culture, they're allowed to believe we're frauds, even though we hold the same essentials (God, Christ, the Trinity, the hypostatic union, Mary the Mother of God, bishops, the Mass, and the option of using images in worship) they do. With the reconciliation of the ROCOR with the Moscow Patriarchate, it would seem to be harder to refer to them as a "cult." In American Orthodoxy, either you're in something like a Masonic lodge (usually ethnic) with a true traditional Mass but also divorce & remarriage and contraception, just like Protestants, or if you want something like the consistency of the magisterium you end up in a cult that denies even other Orthodox are the church, like what ROCOR had become before it rejoined the Russian Church.
  • Comment not published by Rod Dreher. Worshipping with the body. That's great. I was reminded last night how much deeper my spirituality has become since I became Orthodox. My comment, not published: Some Westerners are called to the Christian East. You didn't have to leave the church for that; you could have got it by joining the Melkites (note: an example of unlatinized Greek Catholicism). As for fleeing scandal, seriously? Those cheerily corrupt little clergy mafias put our bishops to shame. By the way, being Catholic doesn't mean you have to pretend the Greek Catholics are perfect or that the Orthodox don't exist.
  • The PNCC redux. I visited a few of their churches years ago, before they adopted the Novus Ordo-style Mass. The pew books had a slightly modified traditional Roman Mass with the Roman Canon, but the appendix contained a Hodur-composed alternative called the "Canon of the Polish National Church," in which all the references to sacrifice were eliminated. One of their churches near me (now closed) used to advertise in the local advertising circular that they would welcome divorced (and presumably re-married) people to Holy Communion. I don't think these people are coming back. The PNCC's story is of tension between its founder's liberalism and Polish conservatism. He was taking advantage of strife between the Irish bishops in America, one of whom gave him a chance by priesting him after he'd been kicked out of seminary in Poland, and the Polish immigrants, only a small minority of whom followed him out of the church. If Hodur were around now he'd be a Call to Action liberal preaching a Slavic version of liberation theology along with his universalism. The parishes, however, for a long time just did the Tridentine Mass in Polish with married priests; that's what the people wanted, for things to stay the same (which was what Greek Rite Slavic-Americans wanted too). Today they're a Novus Ordo copy with two factions, one sort of interested in returning to the church but with their customs intact (the PNCC has parted with the Episcopalians and the Old Catholics over those groups' liberalism), and another that wants to be more like Catholic liberals and the Episcopalians. (The Nats have birettas and nice old churches but with guitar Masses.) They have generational members but a lot of their new priests seem to be ex-Catholic ones from Poland who switched to marry. I don't know if Hodur or the Mass he wrote (I knew of it) were heretical about the Eucharist; given that the church recognizes PNCC orders, I guess not.


  1. John, your characterization of Orthodoxy is provocative yet intriguing. I think I would agree with it -- but in modified form.

    As we all know, we Catholics believe that the Orthodox churches are "true particular churches" with valid Orders and Sacraments (Mysteries). This means that Orthodoxy is not a sect or a cult. It is not even a "denomination." It is a cluster of genuine particular churches, with apostolic succession and the whole nine yards.

    However, I believe that there may be some things baked into Orthodox governing structures that can sometimes foster cultishness "on the ground" -- especially in the convert community. Orthodoxy itself is NOT cult-like. But too often it seems to allow and even encourage cult-like stuff -- again, especially among the converts. (Sometimes among the cradles, too, as the critics of Elder Ephraim's monasteries will tell you. But mostly, I think, among the converts.)

    We Catholics are certainly not immune to this syndrome. The toxic Legion of Christ / Regnum Christi cult was allowed to flourish among us for far too long. But IMHO such cultish craziness flourishes less among us Catholics than it does among the (Convert) Orthodox. We have a lot of checks and balances that help keep things from getting TOO whacked out. Yes, we have our kooks and nutcases. But mostly we're kind of middle of the road. For better or worse! (The flip side is that we're lukewarm, poorly catechized, etc.)

    In short: Our sins and weaknesses are many, but at least we're not a bunch of Hyperdox Hermans.

    Among other things, we have a widespread parish system that serves as the nerve center for lay Catholic life. We don't try to impose monastic ideals or spirituality on lay people. Contrast this with the Hyperdox Herman folks, who seem to think everyone should be monastic, whether in or out of a monastery. That's a spiritually dangerous attitude.

    Anyway...I am not familiar enough with this stuff first-hand to really know what I'm talking about. But the sense I get from my ex-Orthodox friends is that there is greater potential for some serious spiritual abuse in Orthodoxy, at least in convert circles. Not that there are not plenty of abuses in Catholicism, as we well know. But this is different. The Church of "Here Comes Everybody" may have its issues, but at least it isn't a minuscule fever swamp teeming with strange, exotic creatures, some of whom are apparently as mad as hatters.

    (Again, I am talking here mainly about Orthodox convert culture. I don't think the good folks who put on the annual Greek Festival are particularly weird or mad. They are the salt of the earth. But the converts do seem to be a different story, by and large...although there are always exceptions.)

    1. Their divorce & remarriage and contraception pretty much make hash of their "I'm fasting" boast this time of year (at least in convert-land).

  2. I was reminded last night how much deeper my spirituality has become since I became Orthodox.

    Just saw this. Oh gag me with the proverbial spoon. Who brags online about his deeper spirituality? I guess the "deeper spirituality" does not include the theological virtue of humility, eh?

    But seriously: I know Pentecostals who worship with their bodies, big-time. As you correctly point out, it's not just an Orthodox Thing, and you don't have to leave the Catholic Church to find it.

    1. "Just saw this. Oh gag me with the proverbial spoon. Who brags online about his deeper spirituality? I guess the 'deeper spirituality' does not include the theological virtue of humility, eh?"

      Rod Dreher's comments are not different from those I have commonly heard from ex-Protestant Roman Catholics, affirming their joy at having found the fullness of Christ in the Roman Catholic Church. How is Mr. Dreher's comments substantially different from the Roman Catholic who says, "I was reminded last night how much deeper my spirituality has become since I became Roman Catholic. I now no longer have to choose between an individualized, 'Jesus-and-me' approach to Christianity, but can have a relationship with Christ and all the family of God!"?

  3. Divorce and remarriage was practiced by the Eastern Church for at least three centuries before the Great Schism. At the height of polemics between the East and West, Rome never cited this practice as a reason for condemning the East. In fact, even the letter delivered to Constantinople by Cardinal Humbert, which condemned the practice of the Eastern Church of not baptizing pregnant women, left unmentioned the practice of divorce and remarriage. How could the Western polemicists have left unmentioned such an important point? To believe that the West was ignorant of Eastern matrimonial discipline strains credulity.

    In order to answer the perplexing question of the Western Church’s silence toward Eastern matrimonial discipline, we must examine the matrimonial discipline of the West, herself, during the early middle ages. It certainly would be have been difficult for the West to condemn the Eastern practice of divorce and remarriage since certain local councils in the West (e.g. the Council of Verberie in 752 and the Council of Compiegne in 757) allowed divorce and remarriage on a limited basis without condemnation from the Roman See.

    Rome's lack of condemnation of either the Eastern or Western practice of divorce and remarriage (during its practice) indicates a Roman matrimonial practice in flux and development and is not a reflection of an unchangeable discipline. The Apostolic Roman See would have been constrained to intervene and condemn the practice of divorce and remarriage throughout the Church (most certainly, in her own patriarchate) if indeed she possessed the consciousness that she currently does regarding divorce and remarriage. To have done otherwise would have been to tolerate church-sanctioned adultery, which is impossible to fathom, and would have been a perpetual stain on the Roman See.

    Rather, the history of the issue of divorce and remarriage indicates that the Eastern practice of "oikonomia" was accepted as legitimate by the West. Even after the Council of Trent, Rome displayed a marked hesitancy to condemn the Orthodox Church's matrimonial discipline (which, once again, she would be duty-bound to do if indeed the East was blessing serial adultery). When the history of divorce and remarriage is examined, this hesitancy is easily understood as the remnants of a once shared understanding of oikionomia in the application of the ancient Church's matrimonial standard.

    1. "Sometimes adultery is OK" is sub-Christian. No sale.

    2. Those are tough words directed toward the Orthodox Church. However, in order to maintain your argument that the ancient Church condemned all divorce and remarriage as adultery, those words need to be found from the mouth of a Bishop of Rome in the first millennium. Do you have evidence of this condemnation? If so, please provide it. If not, in the name of academic honesty, consider revising your idea that the Orthodox practice of oikonomia (which is a loosening of the divine or canonical penalties attached to breaking an accepted standard, without violating that standard) is equivalent to adultery.

      Btw, do you have a response to the discussion I attempted to engender in my earlier post?

    3. Oikonomia at its best is just like a dispensation in Catholicism, about rules, not doctrine. At its worst, as I think Gabriel Sanchez and, formerly, Owen White have noted, it's Orthospeak for "we'll do whatever we want" under a cover of pseudo-mystical gobbledygook. If you ask for logic and consistency, that's (hiss) Western! Rationalism! Boooo!

      Logically the church can't give people dispensations to commit adultery.

      Natural law (you don't need to be religious to know what adultery is) and development of doctrine are why we don't need a quotation from a first-century Pope.

      Likewise I don't feel the need to dig up quotations from some obscure Easterners to build a case against the Pope (a pastime of hyperdox Hermans), whether to use contraception or get divorced and have a second church wedding or just to look cool (Protestant America is still anti-Catholic; the Christian East gets a pass because it's little, exotic, and cute in America so it's like a denomination, non-threatening). The Popes can only defend all the essentials I listed, which we share with the Orthodox.

    4. I understand that oikonomia may not be easy for Westerners to understand, but it is nevertheless reflected in the ancient Church. It is the height of rationalism to assume that a principle that you do not understand is incorrect. Rather, it is incumbent on those who reject the Orthodox practice of oikonomia on divorce and remarriage to provide evidence from the first millennium that such an understanding was rejected. Appealing to the natural law is not enough (why then do we not have a record of the Roman See condemning the East's supposed deviation from the natural law?) and neither are appeals to the "development of doctrine" (Christ's Great Commission did not entail repeat evangelizing trips whenever new doctrines were embraced), which is merely a euphemistic name for epidemic theological renovationism that violates the Church as the pillar and ground of the truth (how can the Church be grounded in truths that it has not yet discerned from the Deposit of Faith?), attacks and limits the apostolic succession of doctrine (how can we truly pass down that of which we are unconscious?), as well as paralzyes the Church's response to present-day theological modernism.

    5. "I understand that oikonomia may not be easy for Westerners to understand...."

      Oh please!! Spare me that Secret Gnosis Stuff.

      And as for Oikonomia countenancing divorce/remarriage in the ancient Church: That is historically INaccurate, as has been demonstrated countless times. Ask Mr. Google if you don't believe me.

      Moreover, the irreducible Bottom Line is this: Jesus Himself forbade remarriage in cases where the parties had previously been validly married: "What God has joined together, let NO MAN put asunder." No, not even a priest, oikonomia or no oikonomia.

      And no, the so-called Matthean Exception does NOT contradict this. Our Lord does not contradict Himself.

      So, if you think multiple divorces and remarriages are A-OK because OIKONOMIA, I suggest you take it up with Jesus. OK?

    6. I did a search on Google and did not find any Roman Catholic explanations/arguments of why oikonomia could not be applied to divorce and remarriage in the ancient Church. Either present these supposed arguments or I must conclude that you are misleading me by directing me to non-existent evidence.

      I would love to receive a serious response to my initial post outlining the silence of Rome on the Eastern (and limited Western) practice of divorce and remarriage in the first millennium. Can you provide this response?

    7. "Oh please!! Spare me that Secret Gnosis Stuff."

      I was affirming that members of certain Churches find particular concepts of other Churches to be foreign and difficult to understand. Do you deny that this is correct? However, a person’s level of comfort with concepts is not a criterion of truth, just as red herrings are not a mark of good arguments.

    8. Again, the church can't bless adultery.

      To buy Orthodoxy, you have to believe that Catholics, most of the world's Christians, who share the essentials of the faith with you, are "graceless heretics" because, except for the Greek Catholics, whom you consider traitors, they're outside your rite and culture. Historically, outside one of your kingdoms, be it Byzantium, Russia, etc. (Why historically you hate the Greek Catholics: ultimately they don't answer to the emperor.) The Byzantine Rite is great. Beats the Novus Ordo. I'd love it if it were the dominant form of American Catholicism but that just isn't happening. We don't teach that you're graceless; we include you (that's our doctrine, not just opinion) but you don't include us. My first traditional Catholic liturgy in person, 30 years ago, was at a Ukrainian Catholic church. But, apart from those essentials it shares with us, if Orthodoxy's true, God's a sicko, unworthy of worship.

      I understand that oikonomia may not be easy for Westerners to understand....

      Spare us the snobbery, and you probably are really a Westerner. The Ukrainian Catholics I met 30 years ago, refugees from Soviet rule who came right after World War II, didn't cop that attitude.

    9. "But, apart from those essentials it shares with us, if Orthodoxy's true, God's a sicko, unworthy of worship."

      Rejecting Orthodoxy because it results in a situation that is uncomfortable to you is doing the same as Desmond Tutu when he made the affirmation, "I would not worship a God who is homophobic" (meaning a God who is not in favor of the homosexual lifestyle). Both you and Tutu are equating truth with your comfortable religious/cultural beliefs, and by doing so, you fall into the same camp. Truth does not equate to either religious or cultural comfortability.

      Also, why is affirming the sacramental gracelessness of the Christian West a problem when Roman Catholics already affirm that at least half of the Christian West is already sacramentally graceless as a result of the Protestant Reformation? If you already accept the sad fallout from Protestant heresy, upon what objective principle, do you refuse to extend this heretical fallout to the Roman Catholic West?

      Once again, cultural preference is outweighing the claims of objective truth.

    10. The Protestants mostly don't claim to have the same sacraments we do. You have them.

    11. The effect is the same - heresy led to the loss of sacramental grace. All other complaints are subjective restatements of how one is personally offended by the statements of the other Church. This is not a criterion of objective truth.

      It is also interesting to note that, indeed, Anglicans claim to have the same sacraments (especially the Eucharist and Holy Orders) as Catholicism and Pope Leo XIII declared these sacraments definitely null and utterly void. This is a fallout from heresy, albeit limited. If heresy can result in invalid sacraments that were once shared with Catholicism in this case, there is no objective reason why the same fallout from heresy could not be extended further.

  4. "The Church of 'Here Comes Everybody' may have its issues, but at least it isn't a minuscule fever swamp teeming with strange, exotic creatures, some of whom are apparently as mad as hatters."

    I will not engage in a tit-for-tat regarding the human sins and failings in both Catholicism and Orthodoxy since that is immature and spiritually perilous. However, I will note that the Roman Catholic use of the James Joyce's adage, "Here Comes Everybody," is little more than a euphemism for the pervasive Roman Catholic practice of reducing traditional expressions of Faith to modern, pedestrian levels in order to meet the needs of modern man and as a weak justification for its utter lack of ecclesiastical discipline and catechesis. This is certainly not a badge to wear with pride.

    1. You state your highly debatable opinion as though it were incontrovertible fact. Why should anyone engage in argument with someone who does something that silly?

    2. I stated my perspective with certainty and clarity. Productive discussions (theological or otherwise) require no less. If you have a reasoned, academic response, please provide it. The Internet is already too full of shoddy reasoning, hit-and-run polemics, and evasive answers.

    3. I stated my perspective with certainty and clarity.

      Great. Make your own blog, complete with icons, pictures of beards, and unctuous quotations (thanks for that line, Gabriel Sanchez) and post it there.

  5. What a charming example of Roman Catholic bigotry! Thank you for your charitable post! What a superlative example of Christian charity! Happy Lent!!

    1. We recognize the Orthodox' orders and even some of their post-schism saints, they're allowed by their doctrine to call us a blaspheming heretical sect (actual quotation from a convertodox chick in an e-mail to me 20 years ago), and we're the bigots. Gotcha. Over and out.

  6. "However, I will note that the Roman Catholic use of the James Joyce's adage, "Here Comes Everybody," is little more than a euphemism for the pervasive Roman Catholic practice of reducing traditional expressions of Faith to modern, pedestrian levels in order to meet the needs of modern man and as a weak justification for its utter lack of ecclesiastical discipline and catechesis. This is certainly not a badge to wear with pride."
    And the Orthodox don't do this either? It seems like they burn the midnight oil in using "Oikonomia" to dispense their people from the mile high stack of rules and regulations their supposed to impose. Churches that live in glass houses shouldn't be so quick to caste stones at others.

  7. As food for thought regarding oikonomia and the divorce/remarriage issue: the Roman annulment process and the Orthodox divorce/remarriage process achieve the same result: how to get out of a putative marriage. No Catholic, for example, when his marriage is happy, asks himself "was is valid?" until something goes wrong. The annulment, declaring that "there never was a marriage in the first place," really is Catholic divorce, despite protests to the contrary. Additionally, we have to ask, how far does the power of the keys extend? "Whatsoever you bind/loose..." Playing the natural law game as is done by Catholic theologians is playing with a specific flavor of philosophy. Distinguishing "natural marriage" and "sacramental marriage" has the same problems. Etc Etc.

    1. Not that old canard again! How many times has it been answered? Probably thousands -- on the Internet alone.

      Here is just one response among many. I'm sure you can google and find many more.


    2. Look, I know what an annulment is. I have studied the Catholic Code of Canon Law. I think you isolated my "really is Catholic divorce" from the rest of my post, specifically the opening phrase "food for thought."

      If you consider that the tribunal judgments in decrees of nullity are not infallible judgments, though they are morally binding, you must understand that those judgments are sometimes (perhaps many times) unjust. Consider too that annulments are granted to a couple that's been putatively married for decades with multiple children. I know several cases personally where this has happened.

      Here is one example from my small town community: because he is "free to marry" after annulment proceedings, a certain Catholic gentleman marries another woman in the community, has a child in his 70s, and forsakes his other nine children. All attend the same parish, the man sends his "new" daughter to the school where one of his grown daughters (from his annulled marriage) works and where his forsaken grandchildren attend.

      I know this is an exception, and we don't make moral judgments based on exceptional cases. But this case, and I'm sure there are thousands of others, indicates that so all intents and purposes, divorce and annulment both lead to the same scandal, the same familial hurt, the same end result, namely, one wishes to separate and try again.

  8. Your attitude towards divorce and remarriage is curious. Most Orthodox who remarry could probably receive an annulment were they Catholic and requested one. Tribunals declare a marriage has been discovered to be null, it doesn't make one so. Therefore, given the annulment rates and standards in the US, it is entirely possible many if not most of these people had invalid first marriages by Catholic standards. If so, they are not committing adultery.

    1. It may well be true that many Orthodox marriages would qualify for decrees of nullity. We live in a crazy age, when many people marry with faulty intent -- e.g., not intending permanence OR resolving never to have kids. So, yeah, some Orthodox couples may want to check with their local Catholic diocesan tribunal about that. ;)

      But a decree of nullity is nonetheless NOT a divorce, nor is it the equivalent of Orthodox divorce/remarriage -- which, per Orthodoxy, is permissible up to three times for up to 20 reasons. How this can be squared with Our Lord's epress, solemn command is beyond me. (And please do not invoke the so-called Matthean Exception. Our Lord doesn't speak out of both sides of His mouth. He doesn't contradict in one breath what He has just solemnly asserted in the other!)

      If you think your first marriage was null and void -- in fact, not a valid sacramental marriage at all -- then sure, seek a decree of nullity. In most dioceses, it's a heck of a lot harder than you think. "Catholic divorce"? Um. no.

      "Tribunals declare a marriage has been discovered to be null, it doesn't make one so."

      Well, the declaration = the reality. After all, Our Lord has promised to guide and enlighten His Church through all time!

      If one of the parties disputes the decree of nullity, he or she can petition the Roman Rota. Yes, diocesan decrees have been overturned by Rome. "Roma locuta est. Causa finita est."

      I am happily married to the first guy I wed. I have never gone through the annulment process. But a good friend of mine, a deacon, is a liaison between those seeking decrees of nullity and our diocesan tribunal. If you seriously think this is "Catholic Divorce," I suggest that you talk to this gentleman. ;)

      Thanks and God bless,


      P.S. Are there abuses in the annulment process? Yes. Are they scandalous? Yes. Do they nullify Catholic Church Teaching? Absolutely not. If abuses nullified Church Teaching, then all teachings, Catholic and Orthodox, would be nullified. Because SIN. :D

    2. Photini,

      The Roman Catholic annulment process can reach amazing (and disturbing) conclusions.

      Consider this:

      With the common understanding, most recently enunciated by Pope Francis, that the lack of catechesis/seriousness of the couple entering marriage would be grounds on which to grant an annulment, many Roman Catholics marriages could, indeed, be declared null and void.

      Consider the example of two nominally Roman Catholic couples who married in the late 1970s, were taught little to nothing about their Church's teachings on marriage and sexuality, and who had the intention to separate if they would so choose at some point in the future. Thirty years later, the first couple, who remained unorthodox Roman Catholics, apply for an annulment and receive one based on their lack of understanding and proper intention at the time of their wedding. However, the second couple, who have since became faithful Roman Catholics, remain married. Based on the objective status of the first couple's marriage, which would be the same for the second couple’s marriage (based on their identical dispositions at the time of their wedding), neither marriage is actually sacramental. What, then, does the second couple do? They will most likely not get properly married with the right intention. Rather, the Roman Catholic Church will allow them to carry on as they were, therefore reducing the sacramentality of marriage to that of personal, subjective judgment, while also trivializing the sacrament of matrimony.

      Either the Roman Catholic practice of annulments must exclude evaluations of the couple's intention upon entering the marriage (is this even possible when the couple are taught to be the ministers of the sacrament of Matrimony?) or the annulment process eventually becomes the death-knell of the objective nature of Christian marriage and truth, itself.

      This sobering reality makes western fears of the ancient practice of marital oikonomia pale in comparison.

    3. Declaration=reality. Not unless tribunals are infallible. The declaration does not make it so. I know from experience annulments are not hard to come by. Further, since one does not know whether any given remarried Orthodox had a valid first (or second) marriage, one is not in the position to declare the current union to be adulterous. Mr. Beeler knew the church's understanding when he became Orthodox. Did he think then that he was approving, as a member, of adultery? There are many good books on the Orthodox understanding of marriage and remarriage. The Latin church, as has been stated above, was in communion with us while we practiced our own theology on this. It was not considered an issue worth separating over.

    4. Oh brother.

      Take it up with Jesus, OK? He's the One Who said "What God has joined together let NO MAN put asunder."

      IOW: Take care of your own egregious messes before you presume to clean up ours.

    5. "Mr. Beeler explained himself some time ago": it was a mistake.

      The Latin church, as has been stated above, was in communion with us while we practiced our own theology on this. It was not considered an issue worth separating over.

      I smell a rat, namely the "Orthodox in communion with Rome" kind, hyperdox Hermans in waiting who tell us to dump our doctrine in order to join what they think is the true church. They make that claim. Their Orthodox friends, their ecumenists, recognize our orders as we do theirs, but no sale.

      All this carping against the Pope and his traditional moral theology is about as interesting to me as an Internet forum about the whole "Star Trek" franchise or Dungeons & Dragons.

    6. "Further, since one does not know whether any given remarried Orthodox had a valid first (or second) marriage, one is not in the position to declare the current union to be adulterous."

      Excellent point! As shown above, the Roman Catholic Church cannot respond definitely regarding the sacramental status of even the marriages of her members, not to mention the status of Orthodox marriages. The annulment process (in accepted practice, not abuse) results in the wholly subjective understanding of the sacramentality of the marriage bond, where the Roman Catholic often gets to consider his or her marriage as sacramental because they want to stay married, while others get out of their marriage because they no longer want to be married. Such was the case of my hypothetical, but all too real, couple above.

    7. No, I'm just Orthodox, not Eastern Catholic. And, I didn't presume to clean up anyone's messes. You're the one who called my church a cult-not the position of your church towards us, btw. I just simply noted that by Catholic theology, it's entirely possible that many Orthodox who divorced and remarried had invalid first marriages-that would mean they are not adulterers, I just note that you can't accuse someone of adultery unless you know for a fact that their first marriage was valid-AND that it is possible some Catholics received annulments they should not have received, remarried in good faith, but would be, in fact, in an "adulterous" second marriage.

    8. I didn't mean I thought you were an Eastern Catholic, just that the discussion reminded me of the kind of Eastern Catholic, actually rare among them, who tries to relativize our doctrine, such as with the same argument that Rome used to be OK with Eastern divorce and remarriage.

      Two Internet myths about the Christian East: that most born Orthodox pray the Jesus Prayer like The Way of a Pilgrim and have a spiritual father, and that most Eastern Catholics are closeted Eastern Orthodox yearning to breathe free, praying for the day we dump our doctrine and join the true faith.

  9. "Roma locuta est. Causa finita est."

    And yet at the height of the great heresies of the first millennium, the Bishop of Rome never intervened to resolve these heresies in a definitive way. We have no record of the faithful of the first millennium referencing papal decisions against heretics (rather these faithful appealed to the Orthodox Faith in their rebuttals), which they most certainly would have done if indeed Rome had the power to definitely crush heresy apart from an ecumenical council. So much for Rome has spoken, the case is closed.

    1. We have no record of the faithful of the first millennium referencing papal decisions against heretics (rather these faithful appealed to the Orthodox Faith in their rebuttalsls)

      Are you kidding? "Peter has spoken through Leo." "Roma locuta est."

      Would you like a compendium of similar quotes from the first millennium? I would be glad to oblige.:D

    2. Diane, I'm afraid St Leo's Tome was received with reservation at the Council of Chalcedon and is a contribution to rhetoric rather than theology since it didn't really address the issues discussed at the council. Moreover, its contents had to be in agreement with the theology of St Cyril of Alexandria so it cannot even be argued that the pope, through his legates, directed the Council in any way.

      So much for Roma locuta est!

    3. The Pope's office has only defended the essentials I've listed, so I don't understand some people's seeming pathological need to debunk him. Non-Catholic Byzantines, the Orthodox, confuse their kingdoms and their culture with the church. They ultimately answer to the secular powers; Greek Catholics don't.

    4. Patricius, you're afraid? Please don't be patronizing. It's very unbecoming.

      Do you really think Catholics are so much more clueless about Church History than the Orthodox are? In my experience, precisely the opposite is true. There are very few Orthodox historians who qualify as genuine scholars. There are many qualified Catholic historians OTOH. Catholics have been laboring in the scholarly vineyard for centuries. It's all part of that Western Ratiocinative Shtick you apophatic types deplore.

      I am familiar with the context of Leo's Tome, thank you very much. It does not invalidate my point.

      Y'all may dismiss the numerous patristic witnesses to papal jurisdictional primacy as proof texts (although Catholics are always willing to supply context). But IMHO if the Orthodox had even a fraction as many patristic attestations to EO ecclesiology, they'd be all over them like a dust cover. As it is, we just hear the same one or two phrases over and over again. Sometimes it seems y'all hang your entire ecclesiology on one sentence from Ignatius of Antioch. Yet you presume to try to shoot down the much more copious patristic evidence we Catholics adduce for our ecclesiology. Whatever!

      Seriously, y'all. If Catholic claims were as easy to discredit as y'all seem to think, the Catholic Church would not have lasted two years, let alone two thousand. Yet we continue to flourish and grow after all these years -- without being propped up by emperors, either. Go figure.

      Meanwhile, please take your condescension elsewhere. Catholics aren't as dumb as you think. And that includes this Catholic.

    5. You're "afraid," Patricius? Do I detect a note of condescension? Why, yes, yes I do.

      Y'know, by and large, Orthodox historical "scholarship" is somewhat lacking in scholarly rigor, to put it mildly (with a few notable exceptions). So there's no need to get on your high horse.

      Meanwhile, there are plenty of historians on the Catholic side who would present a somewhat different perspective -- and who would back it up with factual evidence and persuasive reasoning, NOT mere assertion.

      Assertion is not argument, and it certainly isn't proof.

      Moreover, if y'all had even as fraction as many patristic attestations to your ecclesiology as we have to ours, you'd be all over them like a dust cover.

      Meanwhile, here's something to chew on, from a patristics scholar with impeccable scholarly credentials. Yes, Fr. Rivington lived more than a century ago, but he was the foremost British patristics scholar of his time, and his primary source material hasn't changed. Pay special note to the section dealing with Leo.


      And oh yes...if Catholic claims were really as easy to debunk as you so airily assume, we would not have lasted even two years, let alone 2,000. And we weren't even propped up by corrupt emperors and totalitarian states. Yet we're still going strong -- 1.3 billion strong and growing. Amazing, don't you think?

    6. Error has a remarkable shelf-life as well as too many adherents, as is attested by the long-lasting and numerically successful religions of Islam and Hinduism, as well as Protestantism. To argue that longevity and numbers proves truth is not only nonsensical (as it cannot be applied to the religions I mentioned above), it contradicts the teaching of Pope Pius IX, who condemned, in Article 60 of the famed "Syllabus of Errors," the proposition that, "Authority is nothing else but numbers and the sum total of material forces." It is beyond ironic that this condemned proposition, originally used by the secular world against the Roman Catholic Church, is now being employed by the apologists of this same Church.

    7. "Meanwhile, there are plenty of historians on the Catholic side who would present a somewhat different perspective -- and who would back it up with factual evidence and persuasive reasoning, NOT mere assertion."

      Provide evidence that the early Church resolved the heresies of the first millennium through appealing to the teachings of the Pope of Rome, to which other bishops demanded submission on the virtue of the Pope’s role as the infallible center of magisterial teaching.
      Do not cite evidence that shows the Bishop of Rome fulfilling his role as a bishop by defending the orthodox and catholic Faith, as this is easily affirmed by both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church. Rather, the burden of proof is on you and the scholars you generally mention to show evidence that heresies in the early Church were opposed and settled by appealing to the infallible teaching of the Pope of Rome, which, ipso facto, would have resulted in the heretics of this time being classified not only offenders against the true Faith, but dissenters against the teachings of the Roman Pontiff.
      Also, please do not refer to the theological renovationist concept of "development of doctrine," which is a cop-out, used as a tacit admission that the evidence that is sought by the interlocutor cannot in fact be provided (which, interestingly enough, attests that the actual Faith lived, taught, and passed down in the first millennium was in fact the Orthodoxy, which does not require such doctrinal development).

    8. Lol...red herring alert! We were talking about Christian communions, not non-Christian ones. There are separate, culturally specific reasons for the longevity of syncretistic Hinduism and non-theistic Buddhism. Nice try at an irrelevant diversion, though.

      Now let's return to the point. If Catholicism is false form of Christianity, God sure has a funny way of showing this. And if Orthodoxy is the one true Church...well, God has an even funnier way of showing that!

    9. We are talking about your proposition, which stated that the longevity and numerical superiority of Catholicism proves its truth. In order for this proposition to be true, the attributes of longevity and numerical superiority (in general) would be an indicator of truth. If so, any religion that has the traits of longevity and numerical superiority would be true. If the propositions that you use to defend Catholicism cannot be fully applied without nonsensical conclusions, these propositions are flawed and your argument is unsound.

    10. "Now let's return to the point. If Catholicism is false form of Christianity, God sure has a funny way of showing this. And if Orthodoxy is the one true Church...well, God has an even funnier way of showing that!"

      What does this even mean? Does Roman Catholic apologetics become fully subjective when it has no answers?

    11. If we're so empty, why are you hanging out here talking about us nonstop?

    12. Diane, may I then recommend to you Dr Richard Price's translation of the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon? Professor Price is a Roman Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Westminster and my own tutor in Divinity.

    13. Sure...send it along. Then I will ask my husband to look it over. He has a PhD from Harvard in Byzantine history, and he knows both Latin and Greek quite well. #DuelingScholars

  10. Diane,

    We are not attempting to clean up your Church's messes as much as point out that there is a fatal flaw in your Church's current matrimonial discipline, which may hinder your claim to be the true Church.

  11. I wonder if Blogger and Photini are sock puppets.

  12. A respected convert Orthodox priest writes:

    If Orthodox Christians don’t want to have their Church regarded as a cult, they should stop treating it like a cult.

    I can’t think of any other
    LARGE group of Christians more given to esoteric terms, obscure categories of reference, exaggerated preferences of piety, and eccentric frames of analysis.

    And the worst, I may say so, are some of the recent American converts.

  13. A couple of thoughts: by their nature, arguably neither Catholicism nor Orthodoxy are denominations; all the ancient apostolic churches (except the Nestorians now) claim to be the true church. But in America, Orthodoxy fits into Protestant denominationalism as ethnic denominations, small and not able to exercise their true-church claim like in Greece (officially) or Russia (unofficially). Many Orthodox belong to the World and National Councils of Churches. With Vatican II, American Catholicism went from having numbers and clout, benignly exercising its claim (flourishing under American freedom), to stupidly trying to act like a denomination, but interestingly it can't. Because it's not. If you're a Christian not under Rome, you too can fit into the American religion even if you look exotic.

  14. I do not wish to write a treatise on what is already a long thread, but some of the categorical claims made by "Blogger" above, seem unlikely, doubtful or - at best - uncertain; such as "Divorce and remarriage was practiced by the Eastern Church for at least three centuries before the Great Schism," to give an example. There has been very little in the way of historical analysis published in English in the Eastern Christian practice as regards divorce and remarriage, but there have been scholarly works in French and Italian (particularly Luigi Bressan's *Il divorzio nelle Chiese orientali* [1976] and Basilio Petra's *Divorzio e seseconde nozze nella tradizione greca* [2014]) which are summarized and discussed in Cyril Vasil's essay "Separation, Divorce, Dissolution of the Bond, and Remarriage: Theological and Practical Approaches of the Orthodox Churches"in Robert Dodaro (ed.) *Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church* (2014). It would appear that the acceptance and approval by the Byzantine Church of the remarriage (in a context in which, on the basis of the Emperor Leo IV's Novella 89 of ca. 895, church marriage was the only legal and legitimate manner of marrying in the Empire) of divorced individuals was a process which occurred between 880 and 1040, with a key moment of ca. 920; and perhaps an anticipation (which concerns the wives of soldiers disappeared, and perhaps to be presumed dead) in canon 87 of the Council in Trullo of 691 or 692. This was a time when, in the West, in the eighth and particularly ninth centuries, the papacy was asserting the indissolubility of marriage, and, in some cases, overruling Frankish episcopal synod rulings which would have allowed the remarriage of a husband whose wife had been guilty of adultery. The practice of the Early Church, east and west alike, on this matter, is not easy to document, but there are far more absolute and unqualified condemnations of remarriage after divorce than evidence, ambiguous at best, of toleration of the practice.

    1. Oh Dr Tighe! Don't confuse the polemicists with the facts. ;)

  15. While this comment thread is getting rather long and somewhat repetitive, I will add the following as clarification to my earlier contributions.

    Rome's lack of condemnation of the Eastern practice of divorce and remarriage is inconsistent with the claim that the Roman See viewed the practice of divorce and remarriage as an adultery, which no practice of oikonomia could justify. This rejection of the possibility of oikonomia in the allowance of divorce and remarriage permits no inconsistency or ambiguity in the historical record. If the Roman Catholic position is correct, there would be no example of Popes Eugenius II and Leo IV presiding over local synods (in 826 and 853, respectively), in which divorce and remarriage were allowed to the innocent party, nor would Pope Gregory II have permitted remarriage to an man whose wife became incapable of conjugal relations (a situation, which we have no evidence of existing throughout the marriage – why would such have not been explicated stated?). These Western examples, which, it must be admitted, existed alongside notable examples of strictness, reflect a similar tendency in the Pre-Schism Eastern Church, which applied oikonomia as early as the 4th century canons of St. Basil the Great. Modern Roman Catholics often misinterpret the canonical discipline of St. Basil to refer solely to those who remarry after the death of a spouse (a discipline, which Roman Catholics actually reject, thus demonstrating their distance from the ancient Church and subsequent difficulty in interpreting her canonical discipline and life). However, St. Basil’s canons clearly reveal that he was speaking of the divorced and remarried. It must also be noted that St. Basil did not demand the separation of the spouses, which he penanced. In fact, St. Basil’s canonical discipline became a foundation for the Eastern practice of oikonomia for divorce and remarriage before the Great Schism.

    Interpreting these historical actions as periodic doctrinal or moral failings is not enough. If Catholicism’s marital discipline was taught as the only acceptable practice in the early Church, these were gross violations of both natural and revealed truth, and as such would have always been condemned with the utmost clarity by the Roman Church. A failure to do so would have been and would remain an everlasting stain on the Roman Church.

    Likewise, as I alluded to in earlier comments, if the modern Roman Catholic marital discipline was unchanging, the fathers of the Council of Trent would not have found a compromise formula for its canon on the indissolubility of marriage, which took into account the concerns of Venetian bishops who plead with their Roman brethren to not condemn those who entered second marriages after divorce (opting instead to simply condemn those who condemned the Roman Catholic practice). This compromise would only be a compromise with perversion if the marital discipline of medieval Catholicism was a reflection of unchanging moral discipline. Catholicism of the 16th century was not hesitant to express her Faith and if a compromise formula was sought in this instance it is more a reflection of a once-shared oikonomia on the issue of divorce and remarriage than a re-affirmation of unchanging marital discipline.

    In conclusion, the historical record reveals both examples of strictness and leniency in the application of the teaching of the indissolubility of marriage (which, as an aside, included fornication as grounds for divorce and logically, remarriage as well, but that is another topic). While there was recognized tension in the early Church, reflecting a hesitancy to apply oikonomia on this point, there remains no condemnation of the aforementioned practices on the grounds that it sanctioned adultery (as opposed to general church discipline). This indicates a general acceptance of oikonomia regarding divorce and remarriage, which was non-standardized and thus varied from location to location, but was accepted in principle by both the Pre-Schism East and West.

  16. 1. Assertion is not proof. It is not even argument. 2. This is what truly mystifies me. Why would anyone want to argue in favor of multiple divorces and remarriages? Divorce is not a good thing. It is a very bad thing. The Bible says that God hates it. Jesus expressly condemned divorce / remarriage (where the initial marriage was valid). He said, "What God has joined together let no man put asunder." No man means NO man -- not even a priest. Could Our Lord have made it any plainer?? He hates divorce. Why defend and even promote something God has condemned? 3. Even secular studies show that divorce harms kids. You can drag out all your "hard cases" about people who left valid marriages and found true happiness with another partner, blahdeblah. That's nice. But marriage is not just about the couple. It's also about the kids. And divorce seriously harms kids. That is as true for Orthodox kids whose parents contracted second or third "penitential" unions as it is for any other kids. Divorce hurts kids. Divorce is a Bad Thing. Why are you defending it -- and in the context of claiming how much holier and more spiritual you supposedly are compared with us Catholics?

    Oikomonia is just Situation Ethics with a beard. If you object to the Catholic Church's defense of the indissolubility of marriage, take it up with Jesus, because it comes directly from HIM.

    1. Oikomonia is just Situation Ethics with a beard.

      To be fair, Western Catholicism has dispensations from rules, not from commandments or doctrine, the same thing as oikonomia rightly understood, but yeah. That quotation's a keeper. Plus Robert Kearney's point: Orthodoxy's "mile-high stack of rules and regulations they're supposed to impose" is often unworkable.

    2. "Plus Robert Kearney's point: Orthodoxy's 'mile-high stack of rules and regulations they're supposed to impose' is often unworkable."

      Should the canonical tradition of the ancient Church be replaced with "Codes of Canon Law" that are revised every fifty years? Surely this is not an action worthy of the ancient Church of Christ. Orthodoxy wants nothing to do with such renovationism, even though Catholicism relishes it.

  17. Nobody is arguing in "favor" of divorce or remarriage. However, I am arguing that the practice of divorce and remarriage is not the sanction of adultery. If it is so, St. Lacantius, Ambrosiaster, St. Epiphanius, St. Asterius, and several other saints of the undivided Church, were hardly worthy shepherds or saints since they approved of divorce and remarriage due to the cause of fornication. If you are going to drop highly charged accusations, be willing to follow them to their logical conclusion. If not, desist from such blanket condemnations and at least admit that the patristic tradition on divorce and remarriage does not allow for a definitive condemnation of the Orthodox position on divorce and remarriage.

    As I mentioned earlier, the patristic tradition contains examples of both strictness and leniency regarding divorce and remarriage. While well-meaning people may disagree with my thesis that there was a general consensus allowing oikonomia on divorce and remarriage in the ancient Church, these disparate examples do point toward a situation where an ideal was taught and exceptions were occasionally provided for under oikonomia. How else can both those who denied all divorce and remarriage and those who occasionally permitted it, both remain in good standing with the Church? Certainly the Roman Catholic teaching does not permit acceptance of this historical fact, whereas the Orthodox Church's teaching allows such. This goes far in providing which Church is truly the Church of the Holy Fathers and is a direct continuation of the ancient Church.

  18. Anonymous5:51 pm


    "a blaspheming heretical sect"

    Catholics are allowed “by their doctrine” to say the same thing about Orthodox, more or less (see below). Unless you want to argue that “recognize and resist” traditionalists (many of them still call Orthodox heretics) are not orthodox Catholics. I doubt that you would take this position, because you have often given a moderate defense of SSPX and even sedevacantists in principle.

    “blaspheming”: Is it true that even the most traditional Catholic would probably not consider Orthodox worship blasphemous. They say that it is grave sin to knowingly partake of illicit (though valid) sacraments, but the sin is not blasphemy. According to Saint Augustine, those receiving valid sacraments outside the Church do this to their condemnation, a teaching that has never been condemned, even though the “Church of the Advent” doesn’t like it.

    You have also correctly noted in the past that a restrictive interpretation of extra ecclesiam nulla salus is still allowed for an orthodox Catholic.

    1. Where to begin? Where to even begin??

      Where do you guys come from? The Realm of Jack Chickopoulos?

      No, Catholics do not consider Orthodox worship blasphemous. No, no, no.

      The Liturgy of John Chrysostom blasphemous? Seriously? What on earth do you think is the liturgy of the Greek Catholics?

      Where do you guys get this stuff?

      And oh yeah, John is right. All your pretensions to spiritual superiority are nullified by your acceptance of divorce / remarriage and contraception. And no matter how you spin it, oikomonia is still situation ethics with a chotki.

    2. Vetustior was alluding to the fact that the Roman Catholic Church (once?) taught that active and knowing engagement in schismatic worship and the reception of schismatic sacraments is a sin, which works the damnation and not the salvation of both the schismatic priest and faithful of the schismatic Church. Obviously, such a judgment would not apply to the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom celebrated in union with the Roman Catholic Church since the sin of schism would not apply in this case (not to mention that the spiritual results of schism reside not in the liturgical rite, itself, but in the schism of the celebrant and the communicant).

      This teaching is found in the writings of St. Augustine and in the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, who stated, "I say this in the supposition that they are outwardly cut off from the Church; because from the very fact that anyone receives the sacraments from them, he sins; and consequently is hindered from receiving the effect of the sacrament” (Summa Theologica, Part III, Question 64, Article 9, Reply to Objection 2).

    3. I've seen vetustior's point before. I'm of the school that while Orthodoxy's not true as a church, it's an estranged part of the church with its real sacraments giving grace to its members if they're not knowing ex-Catholics; in the latter case the harsh words above apply. So, since never-Catholic Orthodox already have the grace of the sacraments, why should they become Catholic? Because Catholicism tells the truth, both about morals and the grace in the Christian East.

      Even with the strict opinion, not doctrine, that vetustior quotes, we are not allowed to believe Orthodox sacraments are invalid. Orthodox are allowed to believe ours are.

    4. "I'm of the school that while Orthodoxy's not true as a church, it's an estranged part of the church with its real sacraments giving grace to its members if they're not knowing ex-Catholics"

      Ok, just be willing to affirm that past Roman Catholics in good standing did not extend such invincible ignorance to those limits, and subsequently viewed all Orthodox as full schismatics and thus liable of the same judgments that you limit to ex-Roman Catholic Orthodox. Unless you are willing to argue that these Roman Catholics were bigoted and cultish by believing this, you have no grounds on which to argue that Orthodox Christians are such by believing that Western sacraments are invalid. Is it really worse to believe that a Church has invalid sacraments than to believe that they have valid but illicit sacraments, which lead the schismatic into grave sin by receiving them? In fact, it would be better and more merciful to have no sacraments than to commit grave sin by receiving illicit sacraments.

    5. "Because Catholicism tells the truth, both about morals and the grace in the Christian East."

      Just because you cannot accept oikonomia as a valid and patristic principle does not mean that it is not so. I noted above that a rejection of Orthodox oikonomia on divorce and remarriage leads to condemning any saint in the ancient Church, who allowed divorce and remarriage (for any reason). I listed some of these saints in an earlier comment. Unless you are willing to condemn these men as teaching immorality, you cannot deny the patristic and valid exercise of oikonomia on divorce and remarriage in the ancient Church and its continuation - the Orthodox Church.

  19. The Church of the Advent? That's an Anglican parish in Boston. Fancy you knowing about that.

  20. Anonymous10:23 pm

    > Where to begin? Where to even begin??

    You could start by reading my post more carefully.

    And I should have written Church of the new Advent (Redemptor Hominis, 1979). If you need more help on the context in which I was referring to it, Christopher Ferrara, "An Apologia for Roman Catholic Traditionalism."

  21. Sorry...mea culpa! I thought you were a Convertodox accusing us of believing that Orthodox liturgy is blasphemy.

    So, do you believe that Orthodox liturgy is blasphemy?? I ask in all sincerity. I have never remotely heard such a thing before.


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