Sunday, October 25, 2020

My messy religion

My answer after many years, and being in a few churches, is "messy." It didn't come all in one neat package.

In practice I'm a Byzantine Catholic. Liturgically and devotionally I do almost exactly what the Russian Orthodox do. Another good option is the traditional Latin Mass a strong minority of Catholics, mostly young, are reviving.

But when it comes to teaching, to doctrine, Catholicism is the gold standard. I don't mean private revelation like Lourdes and Fatima. Even when approved it's not required belief and I'm not interested. Bare-bones doctrine. Disprove Catholicism, and Christianity collapses like a house of cards.

All of the churches used to agree with Catholicism on contraception. Orthodox theology on remarriage after divorce doesn't make sense: the first marriage is indissoluble but adulterous second marriages are allowed for pastoral reasons. And as much as I love Orthodoxy and Russian politics and culture, I can't buy the anti-Westernism, that your baptism is no good because you don't come from their culture. That's bigotry and idolatry.

That said, I agree that Catholic culture, such as it is now, what's left of it, is mediocre and effeminate. My tie for second choice of religion, Buddhism and Germanic neo-paganism, has more appeal.

My country, the United States, founded by English Protestants, used to have a big white-ethnic (Irish etc.) immigrant Catholic minority, a community with its own subculture and a powerful voting bloc because it had a unique worldview. One of my sayings: Catholic ghetto is Christian community that liberals don't like.

There hasn't been an important Catholic community in America for over 50 years. It self-destructed in the 1960s: the Second Vatican Council. American Protestants got their wish.

I needed and wanted a tribe, a family, a culture. I came into Catholicism wanting that wonderful community I saw in the movies. It no longer exists.

The only Christianity that really matters in America is evangelicalism, some of whom are our red-pill allies. Most Catholics aren't. Witness the dumpster fire who is Pope Francis.

I was an Episcopalian to begin with. This influences my religion. Scripture and early church councils, not devotions. Classic "thou" religious English; I also know Latin and Slavonic well enough to serve in church. Good old-fashioned services, not sissy ones with guitars.

As much as I don't like Vatican II, it had a point like the best Protestants. Don't play games with religion and act more Christian, understanding the real meaning behind practices rather than going through the motions. Religious practices are learning aids, not the learning. When you think they are the learning, that's superstition.

Finally, I am not trying to pick off individually, split or replace the Orthodox. You are the gold standard of the Byzantine Rite I've adopted - we're not perfect but that's actually part of God's plan, and I worship with you for Vespers or Vigil a few times a year as Communion prep and to stay in touch.

P.S. Never mind the ecumenical happy talk. The Catholic and Orthodox churches have to interact because of inevitable mixed marriages in the West but really want nothing to do with each other.


  1. About the Orthodox second marriages - I don't think the Orthodox Church views the first marriage as automatically indissoluble. When an ecclesiastical divorce is given (or more accurately, recognized) the marriage is over. While the marriage was meant to be indissoluble, there was no action (consent, crowning, or physical consummation) that, in fact, made the marriage unbreakable. So, while both Catholics and Orthodox consider divorce a sin and expect couples to repent of it, Catholics are still bound to respect the enduring reality of the first marriage, while Orthodox can be given a second chance since the first marriage bond has been truly dissolved. The charge of the "adulterous second union" assumes that Orthodoxy believes, like Catholics, that the first marriage bond is still present. Of course, economia is still necessary for the second marriage since the Orthodox Church, officially, is committed to one marriage and has no standard to handle divorces and remarriages (she's in the Christian marriage business).

    1. There is no such thing as the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox churches are all independent. Witness the turf war in the Ukraine: two such churches no longer in communion. There is an Orthodox tradition.

      Google found me a quotation (source): Orthodox doctrine confirms not only the “indissolubility” of marriage, but also its uniqueness. Every true marriage can be uniquely the “only” one.

      What I thought.

      ...there was no action (consent, crowning, or physical consummation) that, in fact, made the marriage unbreakable.

      These are among Catholic grounds for an annulment: there was no marriage.

      So, while both Catholics and Orthodox consider divorce a sin and expect couples to repent of it...

      Maybe I'm not the best Catholic, and certainly not the most knowledgeable one, but I wouldn't say ALL divorce is a sin. In fact, neither does the church. I know of one case, of an Anglican alumnus priest whose marriage was such a horror show that he got a divorce with his Catholic bishop's blessing.

      Economia is for customs and rules, not morals. You can no more use it to excuse violating a sacramental marriage with an adulterous second one than you can to excuse embezzlement.

    2. Many Catholics feel threatened by the Orthodox Church so they say Orthodoxy is not one Church. If its decentralized structure was really a problem, Anglicanism, which is comprised of actual national churches in a decentralized church polity, should also be treated as deficient in its unity ("which Anglican Church?") but as it is Anglicanism is no threat due to its manifest heterodoxy. The Orthodox Church must be neutralized since it carries a viable "true Church" claim to that of Catholicism. I have no respect for such arguments because they derive from insecurity, not principle.

      Also, if all bishops with apostolic succession (even outside of union with Rome) are true bishops, doesn't that mean they are configured to the one bishop, Jesus Christ? This means that their valid orders make them one icon of Christ, the only bishop. This gives them unity in spite of themselves. Roman Primacy can only help them better manifest the unity intrinsically theirs in virtue of their configuration to Christ, the one bishop, in their episcopal consecration.

      I find it very ironic that you are scandalized by the news that two Patriarchs are in impaired communion when much of your life (and mine too) has been characterized by the historical fallout from, yes, two Patriarchs who shocked the Christian world by being in impaired communion with each other. You say that such disagreement disproves the unity of Holy Orthodoxy, but I just call it part of the only Church history that either of us recognize. You own the patriarchal in-fighting of the Great Schism, as much as any Orthodox. In being smug over Ukraine, you forget the greater scandal of the Great Schism, which began with similar scandalous behavior by bishops.

      "Google found me a quotation"

      Keep reading the article. Bishop Athenagoras says, “A question we can ask ourselves is whether Christ considered marriage as being indissoluble? We need to be very clear in this as when Christ teaches that marriage may not be dissolved that does not mean that He is stating that it cannot occur. “ A glass can be intact until it is broken, a person can be alive until they die, and in Orthodoxy, a marriage can be true oneness until it is broken. It's not complicated. Besides, the fact that Orthodox priests perform these second or third unions in the Church should be evidence enough that they believe that the first marriage bond does not continue to exist (certainly not in the way Catholics believe it does). Orthodox Christians aren't immoral dummies.

      "These are among Catholic grounds for an annulment: there was no marriage. "

      No, what I meant was that in the Orthodox Church there is never a moment when a marriage becomes absolutely legally indissoluble. Unlike Catholics who believe this happens at the physical consummation of a sacramental marriage, Orthodox don't believe it happens at any point whether in the betrothal, crowning, or physical consummation.

      Regarding divorce and sin, Orthodox are taught to repent all the time. Maybe Roman Catholics are more inclined to look for particular infractions before they repent?

    3. If you think I'm insecure, I'm insecure. Guess I'll take my traditional Roman missal, Little Office, rosary, etc., off the shelf and burn them, get rebaptized by Old Calendarists, and starve myself to see the Uncreated Light while joining modern mainstream Western society in accepting adulterous second marriages and now contraception - fast one week, stop off at the drugstore/chemist or Planned Parenthood to pick up some condoms another. Please.

      Again, all of the churches used to agree with Catholicism on contraception. The Orthodox changed mid last century, imitating the Protestants.

      Valid orders.

      Catholics believe in true sacraments outside their canonical borders; Orthodox don't. That's why receiving ex-Catholics by baptism is always an option for the Orthodox.

      Keep reading the article.

      Sophistry. If Orthodox theology of marriage is that slippery - it's always dissoluble - that's a good reason for a Catholic not to marry an Orthodox.

      No magisterium, no church. There is no such thing as the Orthodox Church.

    4. Ok, your first paragraph is very extreme. Not sure where this is coming from. Any Orthodox telling you to do these things is a nut. Avoid nuts.

      "The Orthodox changed mid last century, imitating the Protestants."

      With no Magisterium of the Pope, how, exactly, does the Orthodox Church change her Faith? Pan-Orthodox synods are rare and have never addressed contraception (as far as I know). So the Orthodox Church is left with the same Sources of Faith (Liturgy, canons, lives of saints, standard of following Holy Fathers, etc.) she had at the beginning of the 20th century. The same Sources of Tradition that made possible a rejection of birth control in 1963 are still there. If some spiritual Fathers or writers don't like this, they simply fail in their calling. They cannot officially change Orthodoxy.

      "Sophistry. If Orthodox theology of marriage is that slippery - it's always dissoluble"

      The Catholic doctrine of indissolubility is the result of Pope Alexander III's fusion of two competing schools - the Bologna School that maintained that physical consummation provides marriage indissolubility and the Paris School that places indissolubility in the act of marital consent. Alexander III made the consent necessary for validity and the consummation essential for indissolubility. Orthodox argue that if the absolute indissolubility of marriage was a doctrine of the early Church, why did its basis in marriage only become known in the 12th century (and then only through a theological merging of two theories by the Pope of Rome)?

      "that's a good reason for a Catholic not to marry an Orthodox."

      Good. Mixed Marriages shouldn't be happening anyway.

    5. Just like the contraception you don't like, my first paragraph in my preceding comment is an option in Orthodoxy, one that a number of Orthodox would insist on. Your being uncomfortable with it doesn't make it un-Orthodox. In order to become and remain Orthodox, you need to turn your back on us completely and declare us apostate. One thing I love about the Catholic Church is you don't have to do that with Orthodox things. You're choosing to ignore things in Orthodoxy that you don't like. I don't want what you're trying to sell. Disprove Catholicism and I would no longer be Christian. Almost Catholic doesn't cut it. There is no such thing as the Orthodox Church. I'll keep repeating that until you leave.

    6. Regarding doctrine: Yeah, there are things that some Orthodox Christians do or say that make me uncomfortable. But unless these people have a magisterial weight of which I am unaware, I cannot say that they bind Orthodoxy to their wrong ideas.

      If periodic disagreements over non-dogmatic teachings are unconscionable to you, how would your Faith have survived in the Middle Ages when Franciscans and Dominicans disagreed about the Immaculate Conception (Pope Sixtus IV forbade the IC supporters from saying that it was wrong and sinful to deny the IC)? Also, how would you have persevered before the Pope ruled whether perfect or imperfect contrition is necessary for a valid Sacrament of Penance? You give the Catholic Church a wide breadth for disagreement in the name of "development of doctrine," give the Orthodox Church the same patience in trying to maintain the Faith unchanged. Anything less is hypocritical.

    7. Before the Immaculate Conception was defined, its opponents such as the great St. Thomas Aquinas got the benefit of the doubt. My conscience is clear: anyone can do a Google search to learn that James Martin, for example, doesn't speak for the Catholic Church. No to adulterous second marriages and no to contraception. If you say I'm a hypocrite, then I'm a hypocrite to you. There is no such thing as the Orthodox Church.

    8. "Before the Immaculate Conception was defined, its opponents such as the great St. Thomas Aquinas got the benefit of the doubt."

      Only in hindsight. When he was living, he was just a Catholic with one opinion who was in disagreement with another Catholic with a different opinion. Again, radical toleration of uncertainty on non-dogmatic issues in order to support "development of doctrine." I extend a similar toleration to Orthodox disputes, except in support of the attempt to preserve the Faith unchanged.

    9. I'm not the one making excuses for remarriage after divorce or, now, contraception.

    10. God's not a moralist. He cares as much about the most abstract doctrine as he does about morals. If God didn't revoke the Catholic claim to truth over a non-dogmatic disagreement over doctrine in the Middle Age, he does not over non-dogmatic disagreements in the Orthodox Church.

    11. Tell you what, Blogger: I'll embezzle 10 grand from my job and try the "God's not a moralist and this is non-dogmatic" defense at my trial. The Orthodox' excuses regarding adulterous second marriages and regarding contraception are just as ridiculous. Bet you're not a born Orthodox. They get the benefit of the doubt, not having chosen schism, and wouldn't be arguing with me online. There is no such thing as the Orthodox Church.

    12. It's true, though. God is not a moralist (meaning some do-gooder who *only* cares about righteous living, not doctrine). Like I said, he cares *as much* about doctrine as he does about morals. Maybe you think he doesn't care about what you believe as long as you act right. I believe he cares about both, equally. And if he does, what makes Catholic uncertainty and disagreements about doctrine in past centuries acceptable, but Orthodox disagreements unacceptable because one disagreement deals with family planning? God isn't happy with any failure to preserve the ancient Faith, but neither Church is automatically disproved because of these non-dogmatic disagreements.

    13. "Family planning"? You changed, and rather recently, copying the Protestants. The Catholic Church didn't.

    14. No official change. Spiritual fathers, individual bishops, priests, and laity don't have the power. Like dissenting Catholics.

    15. No official change. [Orthodox] Spiritual fathers, individual bishops, priests, and laity don't have the power.

      Because they're not the church. No magisterium, no church. Just a bunch of opinions.

    16. The Holy Fathers simply taught people to follow Holy Tradition. They didn't refer people only to Rome, but to the preaching that was handed down by all. The Magisterium of the Pope only became an additional source of Faith in addition to Scripture and Tradition later, during the Middle Ages. Consider why the early centuries have no record of theological grades of certainty and of people quoting papal decisions when errors arose. These expressions of the papal magisterium arose later because the concept of the Magisterium, itself, is a later development.

    17. Development of doctrine, not contradiction like 180ing on contraception mid last century.

      I've been clear about seeing all the positive things in Orthodoxy. It and I share a rite, a language, and the first seven councils. I defend the rite against latinization. But I could no more disown my Western heritage, Latin Mass, Gregorian chant, scholasticism, and all, than cut off one of my arms. I don't harass born Orthodox. Please respect my decision.

    18. I understand. Glad we could discuss these issues. For what it's worth, I find great beauty in much of the traditional Western Church (especially the Liturgy) and would be the last person to expect anyone to reject it. God bless you.

  2. Have you looked at the mess and virtual schisms taking place in the church of francis. United in a common faith? Get real.

    1. In Catholicism there's still one set of teachings that make sense and can't be changed. It doesn't matter if some Catholics don't accept them.

    2. Yes, but the problem is that Francis and all his prelate cronies in the Vatican don't accept them so the laity believe that Catholic teachings aren't Catholic.

  3. "You are the gold standard of the Byzantine Rite I've adopted".
    But not of ALL expressions of the Byzantine Rite. The Ukrainian expression is different from the Russian expression for instance, and should not be made different from what it is.

    1. I'm essentially a Russian Catholic worshipping with Galicians - what most Ukrainian Catholics are - so I know those recensions are different as are the national identities, big time. I'm not trying to replace one recension of the rite with another, respecting my hosts, but the Orthodox ARE the standard. There's the problem of longstanding self-latinizations in Byzantine Catholic churches, which are to be handled tactfully but not promoted. I can put up with them if they're old, as in pre-Vatican II, and less than half the practice; if the church and services are just Orthodox enough. Otherwise why bother with the rite?

      Basically Orthodox usage has two versions, Russian and, probably older, everyone else. Unlatinized Galician is the latter: Vespers Saturday night, not Vigil; Orthros before Sunday Liturgy, not the Third and Sixth Hours; antiphons, not Psalms 103 and 146 or the Beatitudes. Like the Greeks.

  4. How interesting and nice to see you still confessionally active. Can't slow down at the Finish Line.


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