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Originally Posted by Apotheoun
Originally Posted by John C. Hathaway

Thomas Howard says that every Christian must address two questions: the person of Jesus and the person of the Pope.

This comment betrays a very Western, and more specifically an Ultramontanist, view of Christianity, and does not reflect my original conversion experience at all. In fact, when I converted to Roman Catholicism in 1987/88 I did so because I came to accept the incarnational and sacramental worldview of the Church Fathers, and not because of the Papacy, which only became important to me several years later.


Knowing Dr. Howard and as a friend of my family's I can say that he would smile in agreement with that Ultramontane title.

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Originally Posted by Byzantine TX
Originally Posted by Apotheoun
Originally Posted by John C. Hathaway

Thomas Howard says that every Christian must address two questions: the person of Jesus and the person of the Pope.

This comment betrays a very Western, and more specifically an Ultramontanist, view of Christianity, and does not reflect my original conversion experience at all. In fact, when I converted to Roman Catholicism in 1987/88 I did so because I came to accept the incarnational and sacramental worldview of the Church Fathers, and not because of the Papacy, which only became important to me several years later.


Knowing Dr. Howard and as a friend of my family's I can say that he would smile in agreement with that Ultramontane title.


Perhaps it would be better to say "Who is Jesus Christ and what is the Church?". Those seem to be THE pivotal questions and the papacy can certainly addressed in the context of the latter, although neither question is entirely separate.

In ICXC,

Fr. Deacon Daniel

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I looked at this quickly. I'm going to read it in more depth. But a few first impressions, from one who is sitting on the fence on this issue.

1. As one poster noted, this is approached from a very Western standpoint. I really don't think you can understand the "Byzantine tradition" of Christianity if you come in thinking like this.

2. The following quote, would be - to some - the main point which gets to the heart of it all.

Quote
That virus – an inevitable result of breaking communion with the visible ‘Rock’ of truth and unity constituted by the See of Peter – is now inexorably prodding Orthodoxy toward doctrinal pluralism and disintegration.


The Orthodox position - as expressed by Abbot Vasilios of the Iviron monastery, in his book "Hymn of Entry" - would probably be that this is unacceptable, and is a substitution of a worldly "infallibility" and a moralistic "certainty" in the place of the authentic life of the Trinity which the faithful are called to.

Instead, we would have examples like that of the Hesychast controversy of the 1300s. Those looking for absolute philosophical certainties will be confounded - instead, what Orthodoxy has to offer is participation in the life of the Church, expressed through philosophy. The "authority" is in the consensus, in the body of the Church.

Instead of confession of the faith, this quote would have the Church essentially toeing an ideological line for an elusive certainty. Or this is what some Orthodox might say.

Now, I'm not at all sure that the quote accurately reflects Catholic teaching. Pope Benedict has stated that his office is not an absolute monarchy. Also, an article I read explicitly lists the "ultramontanist" trend as being actually unfaithful to even the first Vatican council. This is Professor H. Pottmeyer's essay "Recent Discussions of Primacy in Relation to Vatican II" (in the book The Petrine Ministry: Catholics and Orthodox in Dialogue , Paulist Press, 2006. It's the papers from a 2005 Orthodox-Catholic symposium).

Now, one will say that all kinds of modernists have published similar things. This is true. However, Dr. Pottmeyer's essay was included in official Vatican-Orthodox discussions, has the implicit approval of the Vatican, and more importantly quotes the notes and proceedings of the first Vatican council and uses these to provide insight in the overall concept and background to the document. These notes and proceedings are to my knowledge unpublished and unavailable in English. So, one could say he bases his opinions on facts that are essentially ignored by many out there.

Anyway, I rant. Maybe I'll have more (and more coherent!) things to say tomorrow.

Last edited by MarkosC; 10/08/08 06:06 AM.
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Originally Posted by MarkosC
The Orthodox position - as expressed by Abbot Vasilios of the Iviron monastery, in his book "Hymn of Entry" - would probably be that this is unacceptable, and is a substitution of a worldly "infallibility" and a moralistic "certainty" in the place of the authentic life of the Trinity which the faithful are called to.


Marcos,

Of course, there is a middle position which respects the intrinsic connection between magisterium and mysticism, between the proclamation of the apostolic teaching authority of the bishops with the "vicar of Peter" as their leader and spokesperson and the theologia, our participation in the inner life of the Trinity.

In my opinion, the "achilles heel" of the position of some Orthodox "not in communion with Rome" is that while their views are solidly and passionately Athanasian in their Christology, they remain Eusebian in many of their views on Ecclesiology and Church polity. Until the Orthodox Churches divest themselves of any assumptions of an "Imperial Ecclesiology", they will never recover their unified, conciliar voice which is desperately needed in this world today.

And so, tragically, Constantinople and Moscow will continue their battles to the scandal of the whole world.

In the Catholic view, the solution is a return to full communion with the Apostolic See and its bishop which alone has the charism of being the "matrix of Catholic unity" (as opposed to the Imperium of state power) as it exercises a primacy of charity and service among the Churches. Until that time, any claim by any Church to teaching authoritatively and according to the divine charism of infallibility will ironically be viewed by some Orthodox as suspect, presumptuous, "worldly" and "moralistic".

In ICXC,

Fr. Deacon Daniel

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I must correct my earlier citation: I realized upon reading the above quotation of me that it was Sheldon Vanauken and not Tom Howard who said it: though Tom said something similar.

In either case, both were evangelicals who became Anglicans who became Catholics. Both came to a Newman-like realization about the inadequacies of Anglicanism.

I don't believe Tom ever considered Orthodoxy. I know that, from one of his appearances on _The Journey Home_, the Traditional Latin Mass was a big factor in his conversion.

Vanauken, like many Evangelical converts, did seriously consider Orthodoxy, partly as a way of achieving the Apostolic Succession and Valid Sacraments while still maintaining his anti-Papist prejudices (not saying that Orthodox have anti-Papist prejudices, but that evangelicals do).

So, yes, the question really is threefold: Who is Jesus? What is the Church? What is the role of the Pope?

But all three questions really are fundamental to which of the three basic kinds of Christian one becomes.

An Orthodox Christian must at least implicitly answer the third question, even if the answer is already tied to his understanding of "the Church."

One must also acknowledge the "genetic" component to all this. In the Catholic Church, if a person of Western European descent wants to convert to an Eastern Catholic Church, that person is normally expected to convert to the Roman Church *first* and then change Rites (even if the process happens in a few minutes): I witnessed this at a Maronite Easter liturgy.

So, it is understandable that Protestant converts "default" to Roman Catholicism, even if they have some philosophical attraction to Orthodoxy.
I have Slovakian ancestry (25%), and I am strongly drawn to the East. My wife is all Irish, German and English, and she says she feels totally alien when we've gone to Eastern liturgies.

All that said, Markos, I agree with you about the over-intellectualism of the West, even as much as I tend towards it myself. Doctrinal and moral certitude are the foundation, but too many Western Catholics stop there.

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Originally Posted by John C. Hathaway
Doctrinal and moral certitude are the foundation, but too many Western Catholics stop there.


Well said.

God bless,

Fr. Deacon Daniel

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I carefully read Fr Harrison's essay, and think it is excellent.

So far, no one has refuted his argument. Or even made an attempt.

It is a cowardly dodge to bring in another convert, Thomas Howard, take a quote from him, and then equate him with Fr Harrison.

And then to talk about how long one should be Catholic before speaking out about the Faith? Come on, now! Another silly dodge. For what it's worth, Fr. Harrison has long since passed the seven year marker.

If anyone thinks they can destroy his "silver bullet", let them try. Put up or shut up.

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Originally Posted by asianpilgrim
http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt133.html#Harrison

Quote
From Constantinople to Rome: Why I did not join the Eastern Orthodox Church

by Brian W. Harrison

[. . .]

My main source of information about Eastern orthodox doctrine was The Orthodox Church, a book written in the 1960s by an English convert to Orthodoxy, Timothy Ware (who later became a Greek Orthodox archbishop). It was widely considered an authoritative source. Now, Ware declared categorically in his book that the Orthodox Church does not allow such practices. Hence, given the recent evolution in my own thinking on this subject, this firmness in the face of worldly impurity was another factor, along with Orthodoxy’s claim to infallibility that reinforced its credibility in my eyes as a rival to Roman Catholicism.

Part of the problem with this section of Fr. Harrison's essay is the Orthodox source he uses to support his claim that Orthodoxy has changed its position on contraception. A far better source is the official synodal response of the Russian Orthodox Church, which was published in English with the name Bases of the Social Concept, and which rejects all forms of contraception that are abortifacient, while simultaneously supporting only periodic continence in order to space births, for the Russian Synod explained: "The deliberate refusal of childbirth on egoistic grounds devalues marriage and is a definite sin." [Bases of the Social Concept, XII, 3] Moreover, Bishop Hilarion of Vienna, who on many occasions has condemned the use of artificial contraception, has promoted the idea of an alliance between the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church in order to promote Christian morality, a morality which involves -- according to the good bishop -- a rejection of abortion, contraception, homosexual relations, etc.

The Western biases present within Fr. Harrison's article are glaringly obvious to anyone who has been a Western Christian and has become an Easter Christian, and it is probably his Calvinist past that promotes these tendencies within his thought (e.g., an overly rationalistic systematization of the faith of the Church, and an anachronistic reading of papal supremacy -- instead of primacy -- that places the conceptual theories of Vatican I in the first millennium).

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Originally Posted by Gabriel
I carefully read Fr Harrison's essay, and think it is excellent.

So far, no one has refuted his argument. Or even made an attempt.

It is a cowardly dodge to bring in another convert, Thomas Howard, take a quote from him, and then equate him with Fr Harrison.

And then to talk about how long one should be Catholic before speaking out about the Faith? Come on, now! Another silly dodge. For what it's worth, Fr. Harrison has long since passed the seven year marker.

If anyone thinks they can destroy his "silver bullet", let them try. Put up or shut up.


My friend, be patient. I want to take my time so that I can be precise and too the point as possible.

Joe

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My friends, what I offer here is a first, working draft of my thoughts on Fr. Harrison's essay. This essay of mine is far from being complete or comprehensive. But I wanted to go ahead and put up that which I think is the most fundamental issue in Fr. Harrison's essay. Your comments and criticisms are appreciated.

A Response to Rev. Brian W. Harrison’s “From Constantinople to Rome: Why I did not Join the Eastern Orthodox Church,” found at http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt133.html#Harrison

Joseph Schneider
October 2008

Father Harrison’s article explains his reasons for joining the Roman Catholic Church rather than the Eastern Orthodox Church. Fundamentally, what Fr. Harrison wishes to show is that Eastern Orthodox theology is plagued with the same problem that Fr. Harrison believes is present in Protestant theology; namely, that all arguments for authority (whether that be for scripture alone, the consensus of the Church, the statements of the councils, etc.) are found to be circular and that the same arguments fail to establish with certainty a clear, univocal voice of orthodoxy that causes us to believe in God and the Christian faith with certain and firm conviction. In other words, as Fr. Harrison claims that what is needed is an uncontested ecclesiastical authority that can speak clearly and truly communicate the contents of divine revelation infallibly. He says,

You will remember that my spiritual search had by this time led me to the conviction that a genuine Christian revelation directed to the whole of humanity would require the existence of a stable institution of some sort, endowed permanently with the charism of infallibility. The purpose of this gift would be, quite simply, to enable Christians to distinguish with certainty true doctrine from false doctrine (heresy) Now, clearly, if God has given the gift of infallibility to his Church, there must be some identifiable authority or agent within her capable of exercising that gift – of putting it to work, so to speak. And Catholics, as is well known, believe that the ‘college of bishops’ – the successors of the Apostles, led by the Pope, the successor of St. Peter – constitute that authority. They can exercise the gift in several ways (as explained by Vatican Council II in article 25 of Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church). The whole group (the ‘college of bishops’) can teach infallibly, either gathered together in Councils that their leader, the Pope, recognizes as “ecumenical” (that is, sufficiently representative of the whole Church), or even, under certain conditions, while remaining dispersed around the world. Finally, the Pope even when speaking alone is guaranteed the charism of infallibility in his most formal (ex cathedra) pronouncements.

In short, there must be a clearly recognizable infallible voice so that Christians may be able to rest in true doctrine without doubt or the worry of falling into heresy. Fr. Harrison argues that only the Roman Catholic Church, with its notion of papal primacy, can be such a voice.

The next question is this; how does Fr. Harrison proceed to argue for his case? What is his methodology? Well, according to Fr. Harrison want he really needed to answer his questions about Eastern Orthodoxy was a “silver bullet” or some logical argument that would cut to the chase and show clearly and convincingly that Eastern Orthodoxy was incoherent. In fact, Fr. Harrison admits that such an argument is necessary because he could come to his conclusion simply from reading Scripture and church history alone. He says,

Inevitably, in my prayers and studies during 1971, I began to wonder whether there was another quick, ‘silver bullet’ argument like the one I had already found to be so fatal for Protestant theology? That is, could there perhaps be an heuristic procedure which, by emphasizing pure logic rather than the endless attempt to accumulate and evaluate biblical and historical data, would penetrate straight through this mass of tangled scholarly undergrowth in order to reveal a hidden internal inconsistency – a fatal, credibility-destroying incoherence – in the fundamental structure of either Catholicism or Orthodoxy?
Eventually I found what I believed – and still believe to this day – to be that silver-bullet. It gave me a certainty that I don’t think I could ever have arrived at solely on the basis of further research into exegesis and church history. It revealed a fatal flaw in Orthodoxy’s account of how we can know what God has revealed. As with my explanation yesterday as to why Protestantism’s basic doctrine of “Sola Scriptura” is incoherent, I shall use a series of several simple propositions to argue that Eastern Orthodoxy’s account of church infallibility is vitiated by a circular argument, and so cannot be true.



It is significant that Fr. Harrison admits that he cannot refute the view of the Orthodox Church simply from research into exegesis and church history alone. I think that there is a good reason for this. History is just too complex and messy to follow the strict canons of logic. And I believe that this is the “achilles’ heel” of Fr. Harrison’s argument. And so I would like to make a counterargument to Fr. Harrison’s that rests on a two-pronged argument. The first prong is to claim that all arguments regarding church authority are circular. There are simply no arguments that are not question-begging arguments. The second prong of my argument claims that we must look into the facts of church history and come up with as plausible and coherent an explanation as is possible, recognizing that we cannot achieve certitude. In fact, the whole problem with Fr. Harrison’s approach is that he wants to argue from the necessity of having a certain, authoritative, infallible teaching voice to the claims of Roman Catholicism. But this itself begs a huge question.
The fundamental premise is that God, in order to guarantee His truthfulness, must provide some clear, infallible voice of revelation on earth. But must God do so? If we take seriously the notion that God is absolutely free from any kind of finite necessity, then we cannot a priori claim that God must do anything in this world. There is nothing incoherent about the view that God may have given some revelation of Himself to human beings without guaranteeing them an infallible human institution or voice. One might ask why God wouldn’t provide such an instrument that guarantees certitude for human beings, but one can also provide myriad answers to this question. Perhaps God values human freedom so much He wills a certain degree of uncertainty in the world in order for people to search out and work for the truth. Perhaps an infallible, certain voice is just too easy? Gotthold Lessing made this argument in his essay, The Education of the Human Race.” And one can argue that in keeping with the Irenaean view that man was created in innocence and expected to grow into maturity, one could argue God gave only hints of revelation in much the same way as a good pedagogue would lead students slowly through problems so that they could come to greater knowledge themselves.
So it doesn’t seem strictly necessary for there to be guaranteed authoritative infallible voice to protect and preserve God’s revelation. And in fact, it seems that any candidate for such a role would depend on some kind of question-begging argument. For example, the common criticism of the Protestant view of sola scriptura is that it depends upon circular reasoning. How do we know that the scriptures we have are the word of God? Because they say so, but how do we know that their claim to be the Word of God is true? Well, we know this because they are the Word of God. Fr. Harrison believes that a similar sort of reasoning is found in Eastern Orthodox positions on church infallibility and authority. And in fact, I will concede this to him. He is right! There are no non-question-begging arguments for why the consensus of the Church or its teachings in councils should be considered infallible. In fact, there are no a priori reasons that distinguish true councils from false councils or what has been received by the church and what hasn’t. But this same problem exists in Roman Catholic arguments. Let me illustrate: How does one know that the Pope is infallible? Well, because the ecumenical councils, the Scriptures, or writings of many of the fathers say so. Yes, be how do you know that any of these sources is infallible? How do you know what is an ecumenical council? It is one that designated an ecumenical council by the Pope. But how do you know that the Pope is correct or that he has the authority to do such a thing? Well, because of the teaching of prior councils. One could go on and show that any arguments made rely ultimate on the assumed premise that the Pope is the voice of truth and authority.
I believe that the points that I have just made here are sufficient and there is no need to go into each specific refutation of an Eastern Orthodox view of infallibility as presented by Fr. Harrison. Indeed, though some might be disappointed, I should say that my purpose in writing this response is not to prove that Orthodoxy is true and Roman Catholicism is not. My more modest goal has been simply to show that there is no “silver bullet” as Fr. Harrison calls it and I simply add to this that if one sincerely attempts a thorough investigation of church history, then one will come to realize that the great deal of conflicting positions and situations in the early Church do not clearly lend themselves to one theory of church authority. I happen to believe that Eastern Orthodox ecclesiology makes better sense of the historical facts than Roman Catholic or the various Protestant ecclesiologies. However, I recognize that someone coming at this with some different assumptions might come to a conclusion different from mine. I truly believe that most of the ecclesiologies that are present in Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and classical Protestantism can find some support in the history of the Church. And indeed, I truly believe that a plausible argument can be made for many views. I do think that some views are more plausible than others. Specifically I do believe that the Orthodox view is the most plausible. But that is the subject for another essay as is Fr. Harrison’s analysis of Eastern Orthodox views of contraception.

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To quote the Ecumenical Patriarch from today's speech:

8. And now, beloved brothers in the Lord, let us turn our thought to the internal affairs of our Orthodox Church, whose leadership the Lord's mercy has entrusted to us. We have been deigned by our Lord to belong to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, whose faithful continuation and expression in History is our Holy Orthodox Church. We have received and preserve the true faith, as the holy Fathers have transmitted it to us through the Ecumenical Councils of the one undivided Church. We commune of the same Body and Blood of our Lord in the Divine Eucharist, and we participate in the same Sacred Mysteries. We basically keep the same liturgical typikon and are governed by the same Sacred Canons. All these safeguard our unity, granting us fundamental presuppositions for witness in the modern world.

Despite this, we must admit in all honesty that sometimes we present an image of incomplete unity, as if we were not one Church, but rather a confederation or a federation of churches. This is largely a result of the institution of autocephaly, which characterizes the structure of the Orthodox Church. As is known, this institution dates back to the early Church, when the so-called "Pentarchy" of the ancient Apostolic Sees and Churches -- namely, of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem -- was still valid. The communion or "symphony" of these Sees expressed the unity of the universal Church in the oikoumene. This Pentarchy was severed after the tragic schism of 1054AD between Rome and Constantinople originally, and afterward between Rome and the other Patriarchates. To the four Orthodox Patriarchates that remained after the Schism, from the middle of the second millennium to this day, other autocephalous Churches were added until we have the prevailing organization of the Orthodox Church throughout the world today.

Yet, while the original system of Pentarchy emanated from respect for the apostolicity and particularity of the traditions of these ancient Patriarchates, the autocephaly of later Churches grew out of respect for the cultural identity of nations. Moreover, the overall system of autocephaly was encroached in recent years, through secular influences, by the spirit of ethnophyletism or, still worse, of state nationalism, to the degree that the basis for autocephaly now became the local secular nation, whose boundaries, as we all know, do not remain stable but depend on historical circumstance. So we have reached the perception that Orthodoxy comprises a federation of national Churches, frequently attributing priority to national interests in their relationship with one another. In light of this image, which somewhat recalls the situation in Corinth when the first letter to the Corinthians was written, the Apostle Paul would ask: has Orthodoxy been divided? This question is also posed by many observers of Orthodox affairs in our times.

Of course, the response commonly proffered to this question is that, despite administrational division, Orthodoxy remains united in faith, the Sacraments, etc. But is this sufficient? When before non-Orthodox we sometimes appear divided in theological dialogues and elsewhere; when we are unable to proceed to the realization of the long-heralded Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church; when we lack a unified voice on contemporary issues and, instead, convoke bilateral dialogues with non-Orthodox on these issues; when we fail to constitute a single Orthodox Church in the so-called Diaspora in accordance with the ecclesiological and canonical principles of our Church; how can we avoid the image of division in Orthodoxy, especially on the basis of non-theological, secular criteria?

We need, then, greater unity in order to appear to those outside not as a federation of Churches but as one unified Church. Through the centuries, and especially after the Schism, when the Church of Rome ceased to be in communion with the Orthodox, this Throne was called -- according to canonical order -- to serve the unity of the Orthodox Church as its first Throne. And it fulfilled this responsibility through the ages by convoking an entire series of Panorthodox Councils on crucial ecclesiastical matters, always prepared, whenever duly approached, to render its assistance and support to troubled Orthodox Churches. In this way, a canonical order was created and, accordingly, the coordinating role of this Patriarchate guaranteed the unity of the Orthodox Church, without in the least damaging or diminishing the independence of the local autocephalous Churches by any interference in their internal affairs. This, in any case, is the healthy significance of the institution of autocephaly: while it assures the self-governance of each Church with regard to its internal life and organization, on matters affecting the entire Orthodox Church and its relations with those outside, each autocephalous Church does not act alone but in coordination with the rest of the Orthodox Churches. If this coordination either disappears or diminishes, then autocephaly becomes "autocephalism" (or radical independence), namely a factor of division rather than unity for the Orthodox Church.

Therefore, dearly beloved brothers in the Lord, we are called to contribute in every possible way to the unity of the Orthodox Church, transcending every temptation of regionalism or nationalism so that we may act as a unified Church, as one canonically structured body. We do not, as during Byzantine times, have at our disposal a state factor that guaranteed -- and sometimes even imposed -- our unity. Nor does our ecclesiology permit any centralized authority that is able to impose unity from above. Our unity depends on our conscience. The sense of need and duty that we constitute a single canonical structure and body, one Church, is sufficient to guarantee our unity, without any external intervention.

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This was just marvelous! Do you have a link to the full text?

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Thanks smile

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Shame on me; I've been overlooking the possibilities in this matter. For quite some time, articles and books on "Why I joined this or that" have been in circulation. But studies of why someone did not join this or that are a good deal scarcer.

Perhaps there could be a book on "Why Pope Benedict XVI has never become a Mormon" or "Why Winston Churchill Dissented from the Views of the Plymouth Brethren". We could even combine the two genres, with something like "Why Oscar Wilde Became a Catholic on his Deathbed Instead of Becoming a Deathbed Quaker".

Fr. Serge

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