Saturday, August 21, 2010

"What about the Orthodox?"

I have just been listening to a number of podcasts from John Cleary's Sunday Night program on ABC Radio National on the subject of "The Future of the Church". It all got a little boring after a while (although I enjoyed listening to my Evangelical friend Prof. Brian Edgar trying to explain to the Catholic and the Anglican on one episode that it was "all about Christ" - I don't think they quite got it...).

Then Christine sent through a link to this mob calling itself "The American Catholic Council". They too are on about "the future of the Church":
American Catholic Council is a movement bringing together a network of individuals, organizations, and communities to consider the state and future of our Church. We believe our Church is at a turning point in its history. We recall the promise of the Second Vatican Council for a renaissance of the roles and responsibilities of all the Baptized through a radically inclusive and engaged relationship between the Church and the World. We respond to the Spirit of Vatican II by summoning the Baptized together to demonstrate our re-commitment. We seek personal conversion to renew our Church to conform to the authentic Gospel message, the teachings of our Church, and our lived context in the United States. Our reading of the “signs of the times”, as we experience them in the US, our plan and our agenda are set out in our Declaration. We educate; we listen; we facilitate discussions and encounters; and, we build toward an American Catholic Council at Pentecost 2011. At this Council we hope to proclaim our belief in the Rights and Responsibilities of US Catholics.

The idea that has been going through my head as I listen to all this is: "How Occidental this all is." In other words, I wonder what would happen to all this blather if we just put our hand up and said: "Aren't you forgetting about the Orthodox?"

Aidan Nichols knows what I am talking about and says it in the conclusion to his great "Rome and the Eastern Churches".
Rome...not only desires but needs reunion with the Orthodox East. In the face of her own numerous theological liberals and the innovationist tendencies of churchmen (and churchwomen) in various portions of her far-flung "Western" patriarchate, from Santiago de Chile to Manila, from Melbourne to Detroit, Catholicism's grasp of the historic Christian tradition can only be strengthened by the accession of Orthodoxy to communion with Rome. In such matters as the upholding of the transcendentality of revelation vis-a-vis human understanding; the defence of the Trinitarian and Christological doctrine of the first seven councils; a perception of the nature of salvation as more than temporal alone; the maintenance of a classical liturgical life; the nourishment of group and personal devotion to Mary and the saints; the preservation of the threefold apostolic ministry of bishops, presbyters, and deacons (in that same gender in which the incarnate Word exercised his own high priesthood); the encouragement of the consecrated life, especially in its most basic form. monasticism; and the preservation of the ascetic dimension in spirituality, in all of these the present struggle of the papacy to uphold Catholic faith and practice in a worldwide communion exposed to a variety of intellectual and cultural influences often baleful, if some times also beneficent, can only benefit from Orthodox aid.
So next time you are in a conversation where someone is going on and on about how this or that should be done for the future of "our Church", just stick your hand up and say: "What about the Orthodox?"


At Saturday, August 21, 2010 7:16:00 am , Anonymous Tony said...

So, David, are you saying that the next time some individual or group says 'recall the promise of the Second Vatican Council for a renaissance of the roles and responsibilities of all the Baptized ...', or something along those lines, we should respond with “What about the Orthodox?”?

Or, to really cut to the chase, are you suggesting there is a conflict between the Second Vatican Council and the Orthodox?

At Saturday, August 21, 2010 7:20:00 am , Anonymous Ilya said...

Reunion? If you go to Orhodox - we reunion! ))) Papa - not head of Church, Head of Church - Iesus Christos!

At Saturday, August 21, 2010 7:29:00 am , Anonymous The young fogey said...


The obvious point: for them the Orthodox either don't exist or are cool ecumenical window dressing that talks, not to be taken seriously, rather like Tibetan Buddhists, a culture to be looted very selectively ('Oh, I LOVE icons!'), its exoticness keeping it at a safe distance.

Case in point, with liberal Protestants: when a Byelorussian Orthodox priest was invited this year to speak at the convention of the mainline Presbyterian Church USA and told them what for because they were voting to approve homosexuality. He went off the understood script for these things in which he was supposed to smile beatifically, say 'Tank you veddy much!' like Latka Gravas and say sweet spiritual nothings that in no way challenge his 'enlightened' hosts, like the Dalai Lama talking to Westerners.

If Orthodoxy were taken seriously they'd see it's... a lot like traditional Western Catholicism and they'd hate it about as much. No Pope to blame yet they're not liberals/Modernists. 'What's wrong with these people?'

'Maybe they're just backward.' Sometimes the mask slips and the libs stop being patronising and show bare-fanged contempt, in a longstanding form in the West: anti-Russianism, from variations on Jewish put-down dumb-Slav jokes to revivals of the Cold War scare ('those stupid Russkies will blow us all up'). ('90s version: anti-Serbianism.)

Logically in the Western mind the Orthodox shouldn't exist as they are. Rome with the Pope should have ridden out the '60s nearly unscathed and the Orthodox disintegrated into liberal Protestantism. But that didn't happen.

If an Orthodox bishop tried to pull something like the Novus Ordo there'd be fistfights in the street. (In 1920s Russia the Soviets did try something like that. It didn't take.)

At Saturday, August 21, 2010 7:35:00 am , Anonymous The young fogey said...

Tony: yes, absolutely, ask 'What about the Orthodox?'

It's a cliché of RC officials and liberals that V2 brought Rome closer to the Orthodox while it's obvious to the man on the street it made RCs less like the Orthodox and more like the Protestants. Collegiality, token deacons and tacked-on epicleses and icons do not Orthodox make.

At Saturday, August 21, 2010 8:05:00 am , Anonymous Tony said...

Gotta say I just love it when someone perports to know what 'the man in the street' thinks.

At Saturday, August 21, 2010 8:22:00 am , Anonymous The young fogey said...

One of these things is not like the other.
One of these things just doesn't belong.

At Saturday, August 21, 2010 1:51:00 pm , Anonymous The young fogey said...

Just Google pictures of the Tridentine Mass, the Orthodox Liturgy and the Novus Ordo.

One of these things is not like the other.
One of these things just doesn't belong.

At Saturday, August 21, 2010 7:11:00 pm , Anonymous Tony said...

Well if the quoted text from the American Catholic Council is an example of 'exaggerated and unfounded claims', Salvatore, I'd like to know why.

If not, then my rejoinder would be 'What about the West'?


At Saturday, August 21, 2010 7:45:00 pm , Anonymous Tony said...


I guess it also needs to be said that your 'tryptich' is not particularly representative of the universal church either, YF.

There are many forms of liturgical expression when you take the different rites into account. They seem to live quite comfortably with the majority NO expression ... well, at least they don't seem to adopt a 'my way or the highway' approach even though their traditions are also very old.

In fact, I have friends who were brought up attending their community's Ukranian Orthodox masses.

As they grew up and married they regularly attended local NO masses and went back to the traditional mass for special occasions. So they had the best of both worlds and it kept them in touch with their traditions.

That could be a selling point (for want of a better expression) to the 'Orthodox'!

At Saturday, August 21, 2010 8:37:00 pm , Anonymous Dixie said...

Whoops...I just read wikipedia and learned uniate is considered a derogatory term. Very Sorry. Please substitute that word with "Eastern Catholic".

At Saturday, August 21, 2010 9:08:00 pm , Anonymous William Tighe said...

"I was speaking only about the Orthodox, we do not have a NO"

Actually, you do, in the Philippines. There is an Antiochian Orthodox Western Rite vicariate there that does the whole Novus Ordo schtick: celebration "facing the people;" caterwaulting passing for "sacred music; Hispanic-style "devotions" -- the whole lot. It's a great embarrassment to many of my Orthodox friends.

At Saturday, August 21, 2010 9:13:00 pm , Anonymous Dixie said...

Ah...sometimes I can be so US-centric. I can only imagine how some of those in my country who are not so keen on what we have for WR would think about the Philippines version! Thanks for the info.

At Saturday, August 21, 2010 10:26:00 pm , Anonymous Mark Henderson said...

Well, I was tempted to suggest that the Orthodox are not the future of the church, they are its past, but that would be only half-true in more than one way. More seriously, the collision of Orthodoxy with contemporary occidental post-modernity is one of the more interesting fronts in which the church battles the world at the moment. As far as I can tell, the result seems to be either slow capitulation (in Russian circles one might cite "Parisian Orthodoxy" or its step-daughter the OCA) or retreat into romanticism (a la ROCOR or increasingly the MP). But what would I know?

At Sunday, August 22, 2010 1:08:00 am , Anonymous Tony Bartel said...

The have a few icons. Isn't that all it takes to make you Orthodox? :-)

At Monday, August 23, 2010 4:04:00 am , Anonymous Matthias said...

I read a book earlier this year " the next christianity" or something like that,in which the author believes that the Orthodox church will steadily lose numbers as opposed to the catholic church and protestantism-especially pentecostalism- because ,unlike the other two,orthodoxy is bound by being too tied to a particular nationalistic outlook and does not generally support missionary activities, as such. can anyone enlighten me or correct me on this position

At Monday, August 23, 2010 4:58:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

The history of the Eastern Catholic Churches is worth reading up on, Dixie. I have just ploughed through Aidan Nichol's book on the whole matter (Rome and the Eastern Churches), which you might find enlightening - even if from a "Roman" point of view. Their history is different in every case, and (except for the Maronite Church) quite complicated. They bear nothing in similarity to the "Western Rite" in some Orthodox jurisdictions. The popular Orthodox view of the nature of the Eastern Churches in Communion with the Bishop of Rome (which is, strictly speaking, the fairest way to describe them) is not really fair to the history and nature of these Churches. To call them "uniate" is a bit like calling Anglicans "protestant". It is a "sneer" term.

At Monday, August 23, 2010 5:08:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

Spot on, Salvatore. That's my point precisely.

Of course, in any future reunion between Rome and the Eastern Orthodox, the whole status of the ecumenical councils (those of the first millenium included almost no westerners and those of the second included almost no easterners) needs to be addressed - again, Aidan Nichols has good stuff on this in Rome and the Eastern Churches. However, taking any of the Councils in directions that exclude the Eastern Church is a recipe for continued separation. Our hope is that both "lungs" of the Church, East and West, will be able to find a way toward affirming all the Councils of the Church and their teachings.

At Monday, August 23, 2010 8:42:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

As one old enough to remember the TM

Good Lord, Tony, you old devil. And here I was thinking you were a young'un! If you "remember it", with any real clarity of memory and not just infant impressions, you must be at least 10 years older than me. That explains a lot.

At Monday, August 23, 2010 8:52:00 am , Anonymous Tony said...

That explains a lot.

Now there's a statement pregnant with possibilities!

My memories of the pre-VatII mass was that watching the grass grow was more involving and, as an altar boy, sneeking the odd glance at the congregation who were a picture of mass (no pun intended) disengagement.

Notwithstanding those memories, as an adult I've come to appreciate our traditions -- especially the music -- and, if it wasn't for the 'my way or the highway' zealots who seem to congregate (again, no pun intended) around the trad masses, I'd probably be open to attending one or two for old time's sake.

(Me a cowboy, me a cowboy, me a Mexican cowboy. ;-) )

At Monday, August 23, 2010 7:32:00 pm , Anonymous Schütz said...

I am glad you included your last paragraph in your reply, Chris, otherwise I would have thought that you had missed my point entirely.

I will pick a point with your definition "the Church body headed by the Pope", since the pope is not the "head" of the Church (that, as many Orthodox point out to me incessantly, is Jesus). Better to say "the Churches in Communion with the Pope".

I am aware that there is some debate in the Orthodox Church about whether or not the local churches in communion with the Roman local Church are or are not part of "the Church which we confess in the Creed". There is some "ecclesiological incoherance" in this disagreement also. At least we (ie. "the Churches in Communion with the Pope") are consistent in saying that the Orthodox local Churches are true churches (because they have true ministers and true sacraments), and thus truly belong to "the Church which we confess in the Creed" as much as we do, even if they are not "in communion with the Pope".

How we can say this, and at the same time say that the Catholic Church fully subsists (and that is technically the word we use) only in the "the Churches in Communion with the Pope" is in fact a problem we have with the "mystery" of the Church rather than any incoherance in our ecclesiology. In fact our difficulty with this paradox precisely arises out of the fact that we are absolutely coherant in our ecclesiology - it is just that this very coherance produces an equation something like "A=B and B=C even though C does not actually = A".

So when we define the Catholic Church as subsisting fully in the Churches in communion with the Church of Rome, the intention is not to exclude the Orthodox Churches from the subsistence of the Catholic Church. We have repeatedly said that all that is required for the full expression of that subsistence with the Orthodox Church is full communion. That is somewhat more generous than most Orthodox tend to be toward the Church of Rome, I can tell you!

At Monday, August 23, 2010 10:22:00 pm , Anonymous Matthias said...

if you google australian orthodox mission you will see that there is a ROCA sanctioned mission in Spring Street melbourne ,who seem to be operating as Mission judging by their website. What is interesting is that they use English rather than Church Slavonic in the Divine Liturgy,because they feel that it would be alienating- well that's the impression i have. It is interesting that the Russian Catholics just up the road in Alexander Parade,use Russian except for the last sunday of the month when english is spoken. The MelkiteGreek catholics in Fairfield have a English mass at 6pm on Sunday nights. The Antiochian orthodox misson at monash university religious centre uses English for its Divine Liturgy and the priests name is Fr Geoff.
Just thought i would throw that into the soup.

At Monday, August 23, 2010 10:49:00 pm , Anonymous Chris Jones said...

'I will pick a point with your definition “the Church body headed by the Pope”, since the pope is not the “head” of the Church'

Well I did say "the Church body whose earthly head is the Pope" -- I am trying to be precise here. And (as Bill pointed out) the notion that the Pope is not the head of the Church would come as a surprise to the bishops at Florence (and to most Catholics today).

"all that is required for the full expression of that subsistence with the Orthodox Church is full communion"

But full communion requires, and implies, full agreement in the faith; and that full agreement in the faith does not exist. There are many points of doctrine, which the Catholic Church has made matters of dogma, on which the two Churches are not in agreement (the filioque, purgatory, indulgences, the merits of the saints, and (last but not least) Papal universal ordinary jurisdiction and Papal infallibility). To enter into full communion while those doctrinal disagreements persist would be a lie.

It is true that the Orthodox are less "generous" towards the Catholics than the Catholics are towards the Orthodox. But that, it seems to me, is because the Orthodox take more seriously the dogmatic issues that divide the two Churches. In my view, the Orthodox give those dogmatic issues the respect that they are due. The Catholics, not so much.

At Monday, August 23, 2010 11:35:00 pm , Anonymous An Liaig said...

The head of the Church is a term often used very loosely, even by councils of the Church, but theologicaly David is, of course, correct. I would also point out that the Orthodox DO have their very own "Novus Ordo". It is the liturgy of St John Chrysostom, celebrated almost every Sunday in Orthodox and Byzantine Eastern Catholic Churches around the world. This is a reform of the original Liturgy of St. Basil which is only used on special occasions because it is too long (a liturgy which the Orthodox consider to be too long and too wordy!!!). The relationship between the two has parrallels with the Catholic use of the Tridentine and modern Roman liturgy. It is just that their liturgical reform happened a long time ago. Also, the modern Roman liturgy, if said using the option to face east during the eucharistic prayer, has far more in common with the Byzantine liturgy than the Tridentine liturgy does. Look beyond the terms "traditional" and "new", lookmbeyond the sometimes appalling celebration of rite (and I am including the Orthodox in this) and look at the structure and meaning of the liturgy. We are much closer to the Orthodox now than we were at the time of Florence.

At Tuesday, August 24, 2010 3:50:00 am , Anonymous Gareth said...

Tony: My memories of the pre-VatII mass was that watching the grass grow was more involving and, as an altar boy, sneeking the odd glance at the congregation who were a picture of mass (no pun intended) disengagement.

Gareth: How do you know other people's memories were or experiences were vastly different?

Anyhow, one has to query whether taking the mindset that 'that was my perception of the church in the 1950s' is a sensible way of looking at things anyway.

It is the year 2010 and people's concerns about the liturgy etc should ideally be based on what is experienced in the year 2010, not the 1950s.

E.G - whether the congregation is engaged at this present age and what can be done about it is what we should be assessing, not what people supposdely did in the 1950s.

Also, I thought you of all people Tony would be careful in labelling people 'zealots' - an unfair ad hoc attack if I do say so.

At Tuesday, August 24, 2010 4:21:00 am , Anonymous Gareth said...

Tons: Tell that to the traddies!

Gareth: An interesting arguement that those that consider themselves Traddy basing their beliefs on want take things back to the 1950s.

From my own experience, this is seldom the case and most people that would attend a TLM is due to their lack of liturgical, moral or spiritual needs being adequately met at their local parish level, rather than anything based on taking the things back to the 1950s.

Being attracted to traditional Catholicism somehow fills a 'void' that parishs or priests in their area fail in providing proper direction.

At Tuesday, August 24, 2010 5:01:00 am , Anonymous Tony said...

An interesting arguement that those that consider themselves Traddy basing their beliefs on want take things back to the 1950s.

It was not an 'argument', Gareth! It was just a flippant remark.

From my own experience, this is seldom the case ...

From your own experience?

I guess I'd have to paraphrase your own words: 'Anyhow, one has to query whether taking the mindset that ‘that was my experience of traditional Catholicism' is a sensible way of looking at things anyway'.

At Tuesday, August 24, 2010 8:49:00 am , Anonymous William Tighe said...

Without writing at excessive length, I have to say that the version of the historical relationship between the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and the liturgy of St. Basil set out in the above comment is largely mythological. Save for their respective anaphoras (eucharistic prayers) the latter is not notably longer than the former -- although it was probably due to the differing lengths of those anaphoras that the latter gradually superseded the former as the more-often-used liturgy of the Church of Constantinople. But far from originating as a "reform" of St. Basil's anaphora, St. John Chrysostom's simply existed alongside it. This can be understood when one looks at the "West Syrian" liturgical family of churches, which includes the (miaphysite) Syriac Orthodox, the Syriac Catholics and the Maronites, in the liturgical books of which there exist some 75 anaphoras, most of them seldom or never used, but still there (at least among the Syriac Orthodox; among the Maronites the number of "authorized" anaphoras was once reduced to 4 or 5, but a number of them have been restored since the 1970s -- perhaps I should write "restored" since some of them have been rather savagely abridged, as, e.g., that of the Liturgy of St. James).

At Tuesday, August 24, 2010 11:19:00 pm , Anonymous Schütz said...

Point taken, William.


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