Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Skeeved by Byzantium

The paradox of Byzantine Christianity's beauty. As I like to say, Byzantine Christians turned me against them. I've been to Christ the Savior, Chicago, for example: an almost-fiancée joined; her conversion was nothing to do with me. Everything you see and hear in this link is objectively good (the icons and the singing are entirely Catholic) and better than the Novus Ordo, but, knowing the Orthodox' true-church claim including what they think Catholics are, I long wanted nothing more to do with this stuff, and now it's so. I could be Greek Catholic, and under some circumstances I would, but that is why I'm not.

All this got me thinking. My acquaintance with the Christian East goes back 30 years and is much more than my "doing time" with the Orthodox (that's what it felt like). I don't regret that my first traditional Catholic Mass was Ukrainian.

It can be so good and holy; they say the worst is the corruption of the best. It seems to have potential to be a fine, traditional form of American Catholicism. Some Latin Catholics are called to it; Metropolitan Andrew (Sheptytsky) should be their patron saint. But even in the church, it dies by the third generation in America. It has no future here.

Both unlatinized and latinized, as long as it's not Novus Ordo, are good.

So let me back up. Real Orthodox normally don't creep me out. And yes, theologians, I know that sacramentally every member's the same. That said, of course you know what I mean. How and why I'm pro-Russian, pro-Putin, politically. Christos running his local eatery with the best spaghetti sauce around. Heck, at the Olympic Flame in Wildwood I've given to the family's donation can for St. Demetrios Church. I mean born Orthodox who just are what they are, with nothing to prove. Estranged Catholics acting in good faith, with a clear conscience. They don't know they're schismatic. God understands.

There are principled Westerners who don't accept the Catholic Church: the high-church Anglicans such as the Tractarians and Bishop Grafton, for example, and their spiritual progeny.

Still, what weirds me out about convertodoxy, the hyperdox Hermans, beyond their aggressive anti-Catholicism is, rather like how I see the Episcopal Church now, those parishes are creepy counterfeit Catholic churches by Westerners to convert other Westerners.

I know we have freedom of religion in America, which protects us, but any healthy Catholic community would literally tell those folks to get out of town.

Then there are the Byzantine Christians worse than the convertodox, the "Orthodox in communion with Rome," mostly an Internet phenomenon (like Dungeons & Dragons for church geeks). Because they're trying doubly hard to deny they're Catholic, sort of like Rachel Doležal making an extra trip this month to the tanning salon. They want us to get rid of our teachings. Just like Catholic liberals.

Religious Catholics almost never switch anymore. The few the schismatics get tend to be indifferent ones, probably most often, as before, through marriage, with a few who came in by way of fervent Evangelical Protestantism. Convertodoxy won't last beyond two generations. It's not a threat. It's just that it's so spiritually wrong, in a way that hurts more than Evangelicalism because they have the Mass, for example, that it's annoying.

By the way, the reason Christ the Savior's building looks Anglican is I understand it was built for the Irvingites, the Catholic Apostolic Church, actually not related to Anglo-Catholicism or even Anglicanism but contemporary with early A-Cism. Rather fitting venue for self-hating Westerners.

My reaction to groups of literal ex-Catholic Orthodox, such as some Slavic-Americans, is different from either the one to born Orthodox or to the ex-Protestants. Felt that once, seeing the now-ACROD parish in St. Clair, Pa., St. Michael's. Profound sadness. As a Catholic friend understands, they didn't choose "the crazy" at first; they almost had it forced on them. Nothing to do with our teachings and, though it takes two to have a fight, mostly our fault.

Photo: Never been and plan on never going. A convert parish of "the Russian Church Outside Reality" in Michigan.


  1. Getting any comments for your personal ramblings?

    Didn't think so.

  2. You make too much of the "OicwR" "crowd". Are there more than 100 of them? I can name the loudest 10, I used to fight with them... They like to waste time as much as I do...

    Byzantium is fatiguing. Fasting pathos, finding a parish that fits your vision, adopting which view... Of course a certain set of personality types (I'm one) gravitate to gurus of righteous indignation... You get to/have to choose your pet worldviews & outrages. "The Greeks have an organ & pews!" "That jurisdiction is..."

    The piety is heady & decidedly monastic. The lingo is peppered with great Greek & Russian terms... How cool is that? I used to sound so learned (to myself) as I explained insufferably all of this to any audience I could corner... Sorry about that folks!

    Being the weird guy with the beard & the chotki & the newfound holidays & insights & dietary strictures & exciting new church politics (the OCA will have GREAT gossip until the day it is down to one member!)... And then the mixed bag of clergy you meet who have wide latitude & ambition over whom they attract... It's a breeding ground for fiefdoms & gurus.


    1. I make too much of OicwRs because they harmed me, delaying my return to the church, by giving spiritual advice online 15 years ago. My line: the church doesn't go after everybody with wrong views (we're not a cult) but if you teach heresy online, you deserve the same penalty as a dissenting priest or dissenting Catholic professor, excommunication.

      Good points; thank you. It's Protestant denominational church shopping, boutique religion, very American in a bad way ("the American religion," not really Christian), and it's showing off. Nothing wrong with loving Byzantium but you know what I mean. I hear you about church politics and gossip; very Anglican, very Anglo-Catholic, in a bad way.

      As the same wise Catholic friend who commented about ACROD and "the crazy" taught me, all false religion is about self.

      A favorite C.S. Lewis quotation: normally the people at the hearts, the centers, of their religions, including Christian groups, are closest to God and to each other. That's why real Orthodox, like real Greek Catholics and real any other kind of Christians, are usually so likable. I've heard nasty stuff from ethnic Orthodox, such as the ROCOR metropolitan preaching the myth of "St." Peter the Aleut to scare teenagers from dating outside the tribe (I'd bet you a ruble it didn't work), but that's as rare, thank God, as OicwRs offline.

      When I heard that sermon I wanted to deport the metropolitan, having him wear only a Soviet flag. We literally saved those Eastern Europeans' lives after World War II and that was how he thanked us. On the other hand I've met a Russian refugee from that period who still remembered the names of her Presbyterian sponsors who brought her to America and thanked them. (I'm not saying to become Protestant. You know what I mean.) Also, an older Slavic-American couple, probably born to ex-Catholics, from upstate Pennsylvania who despite their likely family histories had only good to say about the Roman Rite parish priest in their coal-mining town when they were growing up.

    2. Being the weird guy with the beard & the chotki & the newfound holidays & insights & dietary strictures & exciting new church politics (the OCA will have GREAT gossip until the day it is down to one member!)... And then the mixed bag of clergy you meet who have wide latitude & ambition over whom they attract... It's a breeding ground for fiefdoms & gurus.

      As they say here in the Bible Belt, "HAY-men!"

      So, that parish in Grand Rapids is a convert parish? Why am I not surprised?

  3. As Ronald Reagan was fond of saying on the campaign trail: "There you go again...". This topic is getting old... beating a dead horse. Your regular readers know your thoughts on Orthodoxy quite well. My thinking is this is "box office" hype to generate blog views and discussion. I could be wrong though. That said...

    I completely understand and respect your reasons for returning to Catholicism. You didn't belong or convert to Orthodoxy for right reasons. Not your fault as you were misled.

    Orthodoxy is almost the mirror image of Catholicism when it comes to the true church claims. I say almost as it is true Orthodoxy allows for the opinion that Catholics are graceless heretics. I certainly don't hold that view (In fact most Orthodox would find my attitude and interaction with Catholics questionable *), nor do most Orthodox I know. My Serbian Catechism teaches that Catholics are schismatic and some of their teachings are heretical. It further says there is much acceptable and held in common otherwise. Note it does not say Catholics are heretics, just certain teachings. That said, I do understand why you have trouble with the "heretic allowance".

    Yet, I'm not so certain even that "heretic allowance" isn't echoed by some Catholics. Having been through the various areas of Tradland, I have heard and read Orthodox referred to in ways worse than in the days of the Thirty Years War. Plus having talked with Catholics that lived prior to Vatican II the RCC did take a harder line toward the Orthodox than today it does today.

    As for myself, as mentioned in a a comment thread a few weeks prior, I am Orthodox out of conviction. The main reason I stay Orthodox has to do with the "scope of the pope" as you used to so aptly put it. From my studies of history, (being I'm an historian), both religious and secular I find little to no evidence of a papacy akin to today's in the early church. Thus I feel it would be as dishonest and unfair for me to be RCC as it was for you to remain Orthodox. Even you used to say "if you can't accept the papal claims, you should hie thee self immediately to the Orthodox" and vice versa. Of course I am not claiming to be the expert in this area and am always open to new incites. So far none of the pro-papacy writings have convinced me.

    1. My thinking is this is "box office" hype to generate blog views and discussion.

      Probably because I said so a while back. My readers just can't get enough.

      The scope of the Pope is the only real difference. They're the ones pretending to be a different religion because they've made an idol out of a good thing, their cultures.

  4. I too am greatly annoyed by the "Hyperdox Herman's" and "let's pretend we are monastics" brand of of Orthodoxy. This always strikes me as a primarily convertodox phenomenon with a few reverts. I have no time for and little patience with these types. Like the babushka commented of them "They may be Orthodox, but are they Christian?" I left several times over this as also explained in a previous comment thread.

    My Orthodoxy is natural, easy going, and simple. Basic morning and evening prayers, grace with meals, the Angelus and Rosary on Mary's Saturdays**. I attend Mass/Liturgy on Sundays, and Festivals/Holy Days. Frequently Vespers (and sometimes the full Vigil) on Saturday. I also attend a mid week simple Vespers when I need to confess. I observe the Church's fasting rule but am not overly rigorous.

    I have done the "Hyperdox Herman" before not realising I was. I was led to believe this is the way it had to be. Partially my fault as my priest tried to reel me in but I was oblivious to it no thanks to my brain at the time being in full blown Asperger mode. All in all, it caused me much hurt and expense, especially when reality hit and I realised I had been deceived in a sense. Worst it also caused me to loose a decade of my life.... that is another story though. So, I do have an understanding of some of what you went through.

    As for now, I attend the same parish, but only out of necessity being I don't have a car and it is the only accessible Orthodox parish. I also stay there as I have an almost saintly parish priest and father confessor. Basically I go to services, volunteer one late afternoon a week (church cleaning) and that is my involvement.

    The above said, there has been a spate of new members both cradles and converts. These both have been more down to earth and easy going than the original HOOM folks and the those of the 90's "convert boom". I can relate to them.

  5. * I on occasion pop round to Santo Rosario for a weekday low Mass or Holy Day Solemn High Mass for days not on the Byzantine calendar (most are on the western rite calendar). I also pop round to the RCC diocesan cathedral's Blessed Sacrament Chapel to quietly visit with Our Lord now and then. Add to the mix I venerate some RCC saints privately at home. I do everything execept receive sacraments per my Church's discipline.

    ** I have been blessed to follow the Orthodox western rite at home.

    Sorry for the length and multiple parts of this post, Blogger cut me off.

    1. All that tells me you'll eventually come home.

  6. Real Orthodox normally don't creep me out. [...] I mean born Orthodox who just are what they are, with nothing to prove.

    And you had me sift through literally 175 posts of solipsistic navel-gazing insults to finally tell me that !? :-)

    Real Orthodox normally don't creep me out.

    Man, you're a real charmer, aren't you ? Keep it up, and, after your wife ditches you, you'll be crawling back to our schismatic "Monsigneurs" to take you back, like the Prodigal Son whose Gospel has just been read the other day... :-)

    1. Which you just can't stop reading. Keep the tributes coming and my counter a-ticking.


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