Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Listening to that Orthodox Colloquium for Lutheran Clergy

After having a go at the very idea of such a colloquium (see here for the report on the Faith of our Fathers Lutheran Colloquium and downloadable lectures, here for my comments, and here for Fr John Fenton's apologia), I must admit that I have been enjoying listening to the resulting podcasts.

There is something refreshing for me, as a once-Lutheran Catholic, in listening to the Orthodox describe and defend themselves to a Lutheran audience and hence with Lutheran sensibilities in mind. It gives another angle on these topics--usually only approached in Lutheran Catholic or Catholic Orthodox dialogues/debates.

What strikes me again and again is that the faith of the Orthodox Churches and the faith of the Catholic Church are one and the same. Again and again, during the Orthodox presentations I hear myself saying "Yes, that is my faith, the faith of my Church".

However, it was then disconcerting for me to hear regular comments disparaging "the West", or "Western Christianity" or "Rome". I heard the Orthodox speaking often of "Roman Errors", sometimes specifically in order to assure the Lutherans present that they were "on the same side" (a bit of "my enemy's enemy is my friend" stuff).

Seriously, and I really don't think you, my dear Orthodox friends, get this: we do share the same faith.

Sure, we have extremely different ways of going about the business of that faith. This can only be supposed as natural, given the long isolation of both our traditions from one another. But now that we are once again face to face and in open conversation, surely now we have the opportunities to enrich our poverty (which is mutual and not simply one way) by learning from one another.

What I often heard in the lectures is "In the West" or "In Rome, such and such is said, done taught" or "not said, done, taught". "Here in the East" or "in Orthodoxy, we say, do teach that", with the explicit statement that the Eastern Orthodox way of doing things is right, and the Western Roman way wrong.

And you know what? I almost always agree that the perspective brought from Eastern Orthodoxy to our faith is one that, far from being contrary to the Catholic faith, would lead us (if the Orthodox were willing to share it) into a much richer experience of what our faith already is.

And you know what else? I think that sometimes if the Orthodox took the time to actually understand why the Roman Church does this, that and the other differently from the East, they would understand new dimensions of their own faith also.

But no. What I heard again and again is: Rome does X. X is Wrong. We Orthodox do Y. Y is Right.

Frankly, I hear that a little too often from the East. Maybe once it was the constant chorus from Rome too. But Rome was serious in 1965 when she retracted the excommunications. We are serious today in wanting to embrace our sister churches in the East--in a dialogue of love, not a stranglehold of suffocation.

Pope John Paul II once wrote (and I think this is the key to our relationship and dialogue if we are to grow together):
A spirituality of communion implies also the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God: not only as a gift for the brother or sister who has recieved it directly but also as a gift for me." (NMI, 43)


At Wednesday, October 17, 2007 12:20:00 am , Blogger William Weedon said...


At least from what I've heard and learned from the Orthodox, some of them really don't think you share the same faith. Some do.

I heard an Orthodox deacon say about a Lutheran friend who went to Rome: "Well, better a schismatic than a heretic." That seems to imply the same faith, but unnecessarily divided from each other.

Many others, though, speak of Rome and especially of the Papacy as "the original sin" of the West. It all depends who's doing the talking with them.

At Wednesday, October 17, 2007 12:50:00 am , Blogger Fr John W Fenton said...


For the most part, I agree with your statement that we share the same faith. As I said in my paper, "[Many suggest] that the problem is East versus West; yet the questions and problems are not geographical." Therefore, I often think these are convenient generalizations which, like all generalizations, are more convenient than true. That said, I will review my contribution to see if I engaged in such unhelpful talk.

Like you, I am distressed at the hyperbole often employed--and equally by "Catholics" as by "Orthodox." (Perhaps you're not listening into the same winkels as I am.) That the Church might breathe with both lungs--that is the prayer.

Pr Weedon,

As you wrote, it does depend on who's doing the talking. I like to compare the schism between the historic patriarchates as similiar to the just-healed schism within the Moscow Patriarchate. This, of course, means that it is of a different nature entirely than the breach between Rome and the Protestant churches.

At Wednesday, October 17, 2007 3:04:00 am , Blogger eulogos said...

Very high level discussion of this subject from an Orthodox point of view at

Sorry I don't have it memorized how to turn this into a link, am at work, lunchtime approaches its end and I don't have time to look it up. But I think you will appreciate the seriousness and intellectual level of this blog even if some things said there will distress you, as they do me.
Susan Peterson

At Wednesday, October 17, 2007 4:30:00 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an evangelical catholic Lutheran (ordering of descriptors is intentional), I remain a bit puzzled by the different status Roman Catholics afford to Orthodox and Lutherans. I understand that apostolic succession (or lack thereof) is crucial to Roman Catholic ecclesiology, but statements such as "the faith of the Orthodox Churches and the faith of the Catholic Church are one and the same" seem to minimize either (1) the importance to Roman Catholics of Vatican I, or (2) the seriousness of Orthodox dissent from this Council.

According to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, the anathemas of Trent do not apply to the Lutheran teachings contained therein. The anathemas of Vatican I, as far as I know, have never been qualified in any way, and they would seem to apply equally to Orthodox and Lutherans.

Please understand that I am not spoiling for a fight between Catholic and Orthodox. I am genuinely curious as to why the anathemas of Vatican I are not seen as destroying unity of faith or (from the Roman Catholic perspective) Eucharistic fellowship. If Eucharistic fellowship is available to Orthodox under the anathema of the twentieth Ecumenical Council, why not Lutherans who recently escaped the anathemas of the nineteenth?

At Wednesday, October 17, 2007 5:34:00 am , Blogger Christopher Orr said...

Part of what you are hearing is the fact that Lutherans are generally far more aware of the errors of Rome and are therefore more concerned with what the Orthodox take on those errors are. Some the Orthodox agree with, others no. The task at hand wasn't to clarify Roman Catholic teaching on a given doctrine, after all, and while the RC and the OC may end up in the same place they come at it from an angle that may be more digestable to a Lutheran coming from a different paradigm with different history.

Within Orthodoxy there is also not a well-defined demarcation between important Tradition and unimportant or adiaphora tradition, and I don't think there really can be. So, things that are matters that could be accepted in Roman Catholicism were we in communion, are used as examples that show a different way of believing and speaking about 'Catholic' things that may be more palatable to Lutheran ears. There is no minimalism with the Orthodox in any conscious way - the maximalism always remains the rule, even if it is lessened out of economia. I'm sure the effort would be made to work out these lesser points of difference if the major points were seriously close to being resolved, but they are not so the major and minor points remain a jumble and used to indicate paradigmatic differences that may not be essential. Papal Supremacy, universal jurisdiction and the filioque (I think the first two are the big ones, though many would also argue for the third, too) get mixed up with mandatory clerical celibacy, unleavened bread, shaving, the rosary, the use of imagination in prayer and changes to the traditional Roman Rite.

Until it looks like there will be a meeting of the minds on the big issues, we will each do what Tradition demands of us: obedience to all we have been traditioned, all we have received. In the undivided Church, there was a far greater degree of diversity in practice and the language of the faith, and yet they remained in communion. At the same time, they all held to their own Tradition as the Tradition of the Apostles as preserved for them by the Holy Spirit. These ways were preferred by them in their prayer and worship as 'better' or 'more fitting' in a brotherly competitiveness such as one sees today between Russians and Greeks in the OC, and such would continue to be the way should the RCC and the OC reestablish communion. (I for one cannot imagine ever being able to worship according to the Novus Ordo, whether we are in communion or not; the sheer ugliness of it in its multiplying styles just doesn't reflect God to me at all, but such was the critique of the Roman Rite at an early date, when we were still in communion).

At Wednesday, October 17, 2007 5:35:00 am , Anonymous William Tighe said...

Strictly speaking (I sent an article on this very subject a few days ago, together with other "goodies" to the Esteemed Master of this blog, at his office address in Melbourne, a few days ago), it would appear that the anathemas of Trent do not appear to those who hold the "Doctrine of Justification" as taught in the part of the JDDJ that the Vatican signed (which was a revision of the original statement), but that they still apply to those Lutherans who reject the JDDJ (as not a few do, considering that its presentation of the doctrine departs from a genuinely Lutheran understanding). Opinions may differ on how much of a true advance in Catholic/Lutheran reconciliation the JDDJ represents, since it appears that those Lutheran bodies that have signed it are overwhelmingly the liberal ones, whose position and practice on the subject of WO (and, increasingly, SS) is moving them further from that of the Catholic Church and, indeed, of all historical Christianity, while conservative Lutheran bodies have all rejected it.

At Wednesday, October 17, 2007 6:18:00 am , Blogger William Weedon said...

My own $.02 on the topic of JDDJ. It was described as a convergence, a moving closer to understanding each other. I think it honestly was that.

There was much merit in JDDJ, but I have not been able to fathom how a person who is loyal to Trent could sign it. Didn't Avery Dulles voice the same opinion? My own Synod was sharply critical of it, but I found her objections to be problematic. The idea that the Lutheran Symbols obligate us to a strictly forensic description of justification (which seems to be the grounds on which Missouri rejected JDDJ) is simply untenable. Luther himself could not have been clearer on the fact that a justification that does not result in the actual beginning of making the person righteous is an illusion and nothing more. Gratia and Donum, and with the Donum comes the strength to cease from sin and be healed in our human nature.

At Wednesday, October 17, 2007 6:28:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

It is my understanding that not all Lutheran bodies officially signed off on the JDDJ. I don't believe the Missouri Synod did.

At Wednesday, October 17, 2007 6:29:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

Oh, please just give me a moment to whack myself on the forehead seeing as Pastor Weedon has properly addressed my post already on the JDDJ.

At Wednesday, October 17, 2007 2:59:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Nietzsche (the only philosopher worth reading) once commented on the typical Wagnerian's reverence for Wagner: they honour him by finding him similar to themselves.

This seems to be the essence of Roman "ecumenism" as well -- the Orthodox, we Lutherans, who knows who else, are just Romans who don't know it yet, and the sameness is judged by reference, as always, to itself.

Maybe, just maybe, the Orthodox are Orthodox for a reason, and some of that reason means that the X Rome does really is wrong and the Y the Orthodox do really is right.

The finest summation of an Orthodox view of the current Roman church I ever heard was expressed in two words to me: very sad.

Article Seven of the Ottaviani Intervention unpacked it a little more:

The Apostolic Constitution explicitly mentions the riches of piety and doctrine the Novus Ordo supposedly borrows from the Eastern Churches. But the result is so removed from, and indeed opposed to the spirit of the Eastern liturgies that it can only leave the faithful in those rites revolted and horrified.

What do these ecumenical borrowings amount to? Basically, to introducing multiple texts for the Eucharistic Prayer (the anaphora), none of which approaches their Eastern counterparts' complexity or beauty, and to permitting Communion Under Both Species and the use of deacons.

As to the JDDJ, no Catholic who faith has roots farther back than the 1960s could possibly have any part of it, and as has been pointed out above, since its presentation of doctrine departs from a genuinely Lutheran understanding, it has been resolutely and rightly rejected by confessional Lutheran bodies, but has been accepted by those who like Rome itself fashion a version of a shared indifferentism, universalism and modernism to suit its historical trappings.

At Wednesday, October 17, 2007 8:22:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Thanks, guys, for that discussion.

Dr William, I didn't receive your email--could you send it again please?

At Thursday, October 18, 2007 1:53:00 am , Anonymous William Tighe said...

It isn't an e-mail; its a real, old-fashioned, snail-mail package which I sent to your work address in Melbourne at the EIC late last week. I hope that it arrives speedily and safely.

At Thursday, October 18, 2007 4:00:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

(I for one cannot imagine ever being able to worship according to the Novus Ordo, ...

Well I can respect that; in some Catholic parishes there truly is much work to do in restoring liturgical sanity.

On the other hand, my husband tells me one of the most meaningful Masses he ever attended was offered in Viet Nam by a Catholic chaplain, from the top of a Jeep. He said there was no doubt that God was present there.

At Thursday, October 18, 2007 8:23:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

Thanks, William. I look forward to it. Sorry about the (modern e-geek) impatience!

At Thursday, October 18, 2007 1:36:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

I for one cannot imagine ever being able to worship according to the novus ordo either -- most especially when it is faithfully carried out.

Excesses will come and go. The "Tridentine" Mass had them too. The inherent issues are the real ones, and they are not the excesses, nor the ones generally up for discussion, but precisely the ones "Rome" refuses to admit exist. You might check out the Ottaviani Intervention for a summary. There is a link on my blog's sidebar

At Thursday, October 18, 2007 9:39:00 pm , Blogger Dixie said...

Past Elder, curious. You indicate that you could never imagine worshiping according to the novus ordo but I thought the Lutheran Worship service in LW was pretty much the same thing. Or perhaps you don't and won't worship at a Lutheran church that uses the settings from LW?

Or are there some key differences I didn't see? If so...I'll be very interested in knowing them, if you have the time. Thanks!

At Thursday, October 18, 2007 11:06:00 pm , Anonymous Christine said...

Dixie, there is some overlap between Lutheran worship as it is presented in the LCMS Lutheran Service Book, the old ELCA Lutheran Book of Worship and, of all things, texts from the Book of Common Prayer, especially in the collects.

At Friday, October 19, 2007 12:41:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Well, Dixie, since you asked -- although a discussion of Lutheran worship I would usually reserve for a Lutheran blog.

Many Lutheran service books since Vatican II indeed reflect the novus ordo. LBW, LW and now the LSB. I think this is unfortunate indeed. It's kind of like we had a Motu before the Motu -- revisionist liturgy alongside the traditional liturgy, take your pick.

LSB, the current service book of LCMS, has a Divine Service Setting One and Two liturgies that in origin derive from the novus ordo. And no, I do not like them, and much prefer the Common Service (LSB Divine Service Three) or other orders of historic Lutheran origin (Settings Four and Five).

That said, if we have to have Vatican II for Lutherans, the versions of it in these books, even the LBW, are an improvement.

The example I usually give is this, chosen because it happens early on and is easy to see. A lot of the changes in the novus ordo supposedly were to incorporate Eastern, and presumably more ancient, sources in the Western rite. The kyrie, for example, which is a response to a petitionary prayer, and funtions as such in the opening of the Eastern rite, but in the Latin rite stands alone though still in Greek.

The novus ordo re-attached the lyrie response to something, but not petitions but penitential statements, the whole thing replacing the confiteor and the kyrie. For the times we have ..., Lord have mercy. Etc.

In the novus ordo based first and second settings in LSB and its antecendents, this it corrected. The confession of sin and absolution remains intact, then the classic Eastern statement "In peace let us pray to the Lord", then the first three or so of the classic petitions in the Eastern rite at this place with their Lord have mercy.

Now, compared to the actual Eastern liturgy it is quite minimal, but at least it does preserve the penitential part and the petitionary part for what they are. On that basis, I can deal with it, and it overrides the realisation that the whole deal is Vatican II influenced, not to mention the fact that in the Eastern liturgy the penitential part does not happen here at all.

In short, if we must have a Greeked over lightly Western liturgy, then the versions of the novus ordo fail, but the versions in the Lutheran books you mention at least got the idea right, and I can go with that even while wishing we were using the Common Service or one of the others.

There are Lutheran versions of the Eastern Liturgy itself. I have a link to one of them (Ukrainian) on my blog.

At Friday, October 19, 2007 1:14:00 pm , Anonymous Christine said...

Dixie, if you are ever so inclined (and interested) some day you might want to peruse Dr. Philip Pfatteicher's "Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship."

It's a great resource for examining some of the sources.

At Sunday, October 28, 2007 7:50:00 am , Blogger Anastasia Theodoridis said...

ISTM the more we Orthodox learn both of Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, the more we become convinced that they are not at all the same. They often sound the same. But behind the words is a very, very different way of life, a different spirit, and a different way of doing things that is different intentionally and for a theological reason, rather than because of any historical accident or circumstance. (Those kinds of differences also exist, yes.)

Just for one example, the filioque is a *major* issue, making for a whole different Holy Trinity. And you do not mean the same thing vy it that we do without it; if you did you could simply delete the word and end the whole controversy, but that does not and will not happen. It is important to Catholics to keep the filioque.

For another example, the papal claims of supramacy and infallibility are no minor matter. They alter the faith very significantly, from the Orthodox POV. Not only are they, for us, in themselves major changes of the faith, but they have also come, from an Orthodox POV, to color almost every other Catholic doctrine to make the Catholic way of stating it sound strange to our ears.

If we take the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as I have done, and read very attentively and begin underlining parts that are put incorrectly in ways that may seem small but have huge implications, we end up underlining a huge percentage of the book. Another huge percentage of it we put question marks beside because the language is too vague (syncretistic) and/or too contradictory (again, syncretistic)to be able to know for sure whether it agrees with Orthodoxy or not.

Sorry, but the idea that we share the same faith is wishful thinking. I, too, wish it were so and pray it may one day be so. For now, we have a lot of hard work to do, and a lot of honest discussion is required.


At Tuesday, October 30, 2007 5:56:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

Just for one example, the filioque is a *major* issue, making for a whole different Holy Trinity.

Well, as long as Catholics baptize in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit I would disagree. All the liturgical traditions of the West use the Catholic formula.

Don't trouble yourself too much in underlining in the Catechism, Anastasia. I spent a good deal of time with the Catechism and observing the Catholic Church from the outside before I made the jump. "Living the life" is a bit different than examining it under the microscope.

To be Catholic is to be:





and Kingdom oriented.

That, in a nutshell, is the Catechism. The Bishop of Rome, or the Pope (who does not make it a habit of speaking infallibly), is not the head of the Church. Jesus Christ is.

And I would humbly submit that different Orthodox will give different answers as to what Catholics and Orthodox have in common.

The very warm and genial pastor of the Russian Orthodox Church in my neighborhood has given me some very good glimpses of Orthodoxy in conversations I have had with him.

At Tuesday, October 30, 2007 6:21:00 am , Blogger Josh S said...

There are other major issues which perhaps no one thinks are truly major because they don't get brought up in discussion much, but are in fact major because they're on the dogmatic books.

Take for example the matter of indulgences. Merit and purgatory aren't even categories in Orthodox theology, let alone the idea that there exists a treasury of the former out of which the pope has the power to administer indulgences. Which of course brings up the issue that the Orthodox likewise don't have a place in their theology for a bishop who is so supreme that he can by his laws and decrees affect the status of Christians outside of his domain after death. Yet I simply don't see indulgences discussed much in Catholic-Orthodox dialogues, despite the fact that Rome continues to issue indulgences. There also doesn't appear to be a way to soften "absolute, universal, immediate jurisdiction" to be compatible with the Eastern idea of "first among equals."

Now maybe you don't consider things to be essential to your faith, but that just makes you not a particularly good Catholic. A good Catholic fully committed to all the dogmas of the Church, and not just the ones that have a somewhat similar representation in Orthodox theology, would grieve that the Orthodox persist in their heresies, because denial of any papal teaching is a heresy, not merely a schism.

At Tuesday, October 30, 2007 7:35:00 am , Blogger Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Hi, Christine!

You're right, different Orthodox people give differing opinions on what some of our differences are. It seems to depend upon a couple of things, such as how much information one has, and how much insight. Some naively fall for the syncretistic line.

And you're also right that to be a Catholic must be quite different from seeing it from the outside. I have never been a Catholic.

I did, however, live in a large Catholic family (by marriage) for 21 years, attending Catholic churches for a good part of that time, being active in parish life, socializing almost exclusively with Catholics, and taking an active part with my husband in raising our two children Catholic (who, however, as adults, now will not darken the door of any church). So I suppose that's about as close a view as an outsider can get. I have at least the flavor of it all, and it's a very different flavor from that of Orthodoxy.


At Tuesday, October 30, 2007 7:53:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

Yes, Anastasia, it is a different "flavor". But if the Church ultimately belongs to Jesus Christ, there is some overlap. I, too, was a part of my husband's Catholic family for twenty years before I became Catholic so I well know of what you speak. I was also part of my Lutheran family so I know that tradition pretty well.

As far as children who no longer darken the door of any church, well, to use a Scriptural nomenclature, they are "legion." There's many ex-Christians in all the traditions these days.

Just suffice it to say that those of us who call the Catholic Church home find her as familiar and beloved as you find Orthodoxy.


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