Friday, June 17, 2016

The church: Balancing our truth claim with fairness to our estranged brethren

Friends, "Romans," countrymen, lend me your ears.

Fr. LaRue writes: Why we should not say "the Catholic Church" to refer to the Roman communion. As he and I know, what he now calls the Roman communion and I just call the church has always maintained a balance, insisting there can be only one church, indivisible, yet implicitly including those of good will born outside its visible boundaries. If, like us, you have the sacraments, all the better. For instance, there are our fellow Chalcedonians the Orthodox and indeed the rest of the estranged Eastern churches; each likewise claims to be the true church but doesn't extend sacramental recognition in principle (the Byzantine Orthodox think we're not Christians because we weren't in their empire). We on the other hand believe they have real bishops and the Mass (even if the Nestorians and Monophysites are heretics), as close to a branch theory as we get. Born Orthodox are definitely an estranged part of us (that sometimes hates our guts). Our close cousins the traditional Lutherans have an implicit true-church claim; we're in grave error. Fr. LaRue doesn't say it here but his argument about subsistences reminds me of the great recent Anglican apologist Fr. Mitchican teaching me that the classical Anglicans' branch theory was no bland ecumenism; just like the Orthodox, they thought they were the true church. So the Tractarians didn't want the Greeks ordaining an Englishman for their country and neither they nor Charles Grafton wanted the Catholic hierarchy in their lands: get off our turf, "Romans"! Originally, Anglo-Catholicism, like old high churchmanship, was about asserting a truth claim against us.

Modern high-church Anglicans, left or right, don't quite put it that way. They're Romanizers, holding pretty much the same beliefs about the Mass and the sacraments as ours and beyond that identifying Episcopalianism with Western Catholicism and indeed the Roman Rite, but not Papalists (the would-be Catholics people assumed Anglo-Catholics were). Another way of putting it is they want to be in the church but on their terms, not the church's. Find some nice quotations from the Caroline divines, translate our traditional missal and invent your own church, essentially. I just chalk it up to the sadness and confusion the "Reformation" left on English people's souls.

Sorry, folks, your state church is Reformed, not Catholic. Straight shot from Articles XIX and XXI to women priests: fallible, changeable church. It doesn't act like the Catholic Church because it's not the Catholic Church.

But, some balance: I still use Fr. LaRue's religious English (but not the actual Prayer Book, which is Protestant) and my semi-traditionalist parish sings his side's hymns, which are very good.

By the way, it looks like Msgr. Bartholomew's council's a no-go or at least a big nothing. (Orthodox politics: Msgr. B and the rich Greek-Americans vs. Putin's Russia, an empire with real power.) Maybe the Orthodox can't call a council. As I say, there is an Orthodox small-t tradition, entirely Catholic as Fr. Serge (Keleher) said, and Orthodox bishops, but they are Catholic bishops estranged from each other as well as from us; sister dioceses to Catholic dioceses but the Catholic Church has no sisters. There is no such thing as the Orthodox Church.

I was just rereading parts of Fr. Serge's translation of Metropolitan Andrew. Cardinal Gibbons called it over a century ago: the Eastern rites fade away in America within three generations. The people Americanize (lose their language, marry outside the group, etc.) and it's over. And it's not just an Orthodox problem. But his solution was rude and caused a schism: force these immigrants to become Roman Rite immediately. No. The church, which includes the Christian East on principle and thus tries to protect those rites, didn't buy that and at least set up Eastern rites' dioceses here to prevent more schisms. The Byzantine Rite for example has a lot of potential here: a Catholic traditionalism minus some of our cultural baggage. But it just isn't happening here. If we're honest, we'll say that those rites in America are a temporary, transitional phenomenon for some immigrants and their children; Byzantine for East Slavs (Ukrainians), for example. Ruthenian immigration ended 100 years ago so they're done here. Ukrainians really last came as refugees from the Soviet takeover during World War II; immigration since the fall of Communism doesn't seem to help the Catholic Church here. I take no pleasure from that. Regular readers know my first traditional Catholic Mass in person was Ukrainian so I'm thankful.


  1. Question for discussion: Lutherans, when they are faithful to their confessional orthodoxy and the orthopraxis of their first century, share more common ground with Catholicism, than do Anglicans similarly faithful.

  2. Interesting reflections about Eastern Slavs in North America. Please be advised, though, that there are thriving 4th- and 5th-generation Ukrainian Greek Catholic parishes in Western Canada (all English-speaking, granted), and that after 1989 there was another wave of Ukrainian emigration to the U.S. and Canada, much but by no means all of it "secular" or non-believing.


Leave comment