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What Not to Learn from Eastern Orthodoxy #404150 03/14/14 06:50 AM
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Tomassus Offline OP
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What Not to Learn from Eastern Orthodoxy

by Gabriel S. Sanchez
3/14/2104

www.crisismagazine.com/2014/what-not-to-learn-from-eastern-orthodoxy

Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortaiton, Evangelii Gaudium, raised eyebrows within and beyond the Catholic world for what the Sovereign Pontiff had to say on things economic. Considerably less attention was paid to the document’s other discussions which range from the so-called New Evangelization to matters of Church governance. On this latter point, the Pope suggested, in line with the Second Vatican Council, that the local episcopal conferences, “like the ancient patriarchal Churches … are in a position ‘to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realization of the collegial spirit’” before lamenting that this desire has not been fully realized, since “a juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated.” Further down in the exhortation, Francis offered a nod of approval to the ongoing Catholic/Eastern Orthodox dialogue which, in his mind, provides “the opportunity [for Catholics] to learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and [the Orthodox] experience of synodality.” That statement was pregnant with unintended irony.

Barely a month after Evangelii Gaudium was issued, the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarch (EP) of Constantinople launched into a very public and unedifying spat over the meaning of primacy in the Orthodox Church. Though opinions differ, it appears that one of the main impetuses for the exchange was the EP’s call for Orthodox leaders to assemble for the purposes of laying out an agenda for a “Great and Holy Council” which Constantinople hopes will take place in 2016. It is a well-known fact that the MP and EP have been engaged in a tug of war for practical primacy in the Orthodox Church since the former’s resurgence after the fall of Communism in Russia. While the EP retains a high position of dignity in the Orthodox world due to its historic link to Eastern Christendom’s crown-jewel city, today the heir of the ecumenical throne, Bartholomew I, directly oversees a tiny flock living a mostly ghetto existence in Istanbul, Turkey.

Meanwhile, in Russia, Patriarch Kirill I can be seen rubbing elbows with Russian President Vladimir Putin as his church continues to re-evangelize Russia and, more controversially, exert considerable political influence in Russian society. As the head of the single largest Orthodox body with parishes spread across the globe, the MP, in the eyes of mean, looks to be the authentic leader of world Orthodoxy even if its governance and magisterial authority is, canonically speaking, circumscribed. Collegiality at the pan-Orthodox level appears to have given way to concrete numbers and the pragmatic authority which accompanies them. At this juncture, a “Great and Holy Council” for Orthodoxy in 2016—or at any other point in the foreseeable future—seems unlikely.

Closer to home in the West, the overlapping Orthodox jurisdictions in the Americas have provided another reason for Catholics to give pause concerning the supposed virtues of collegiality and synodality. Formed in 2009, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America was intended to lay the groundwork for the formation of a unified American Orthodox Church which would no longer be divided along ethnic lines while being under the authority of the EP. This, too, has started to rapidly unravel. On January 15, 2014, the secretary of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR)—an autonomous body of the Russian Church which remains linked with the MP—sent a letter to the Assembly rebuking its early plans to work toward an independent American Church while asserting its canonical right to serve the Russian “diaspora” (and those attached to it) without external interference. Less than a week later, the bishops of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America—the second largest Orthodox jurisdiction on the continent after the Greek Church—withdrew from the Assembly completely, citing an ongoing territorial quarrel in Qatar between the Antiochians and the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem as the impetus for the decision.

Some might see these recent events as unfortunate aberrations in the otherwise healthy governance life of the Orthodox Church, but they would be wrong to do so. Since the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Orthodox history has been littered, and some might uncharitably say defined, by internecine strife and factionalism as those few local Orthodox churches which were not under the Muslim heel rose in practical importance while the more ancient patriarchates receded into obscurity. In the 20th Century large swathes of Orthodox remained out of communion with particular churches for a mixture of jurisdictional, doctrinal, and chauvinistic reasons. While the situation has improved, one has to wonder how long it will last. In addition to the aforementioned dispute in Qatar, there is ongoing acrimony in Estonia, Macedonia, and Ukraine which currently has three different Orthodox churches vying for control. With the EP and MP currently at each other’s throats, how long until they break communion with each other?

The point of summarizing these events is not to provide Catholics with a cheap opportunity to engage in triumphalism over the Orthodox but rather to offer the Church of Rome and the sui iuris churches in communion with her an opportunity to reflect on what collegiality and synodality has meant, as a practical matter, to the second largest Christian communion in the world. While outside afflictions in the form of Islamic invasions and Communist oppression warrant more than a bit of the blame for Orthodoxy’s woes, it cannot be denied that its confederate model of governance—loose, self-driven, and unreliable as it is—has neutralized the Orthodox Church’s attempt to collectively assert itself against the rising tide of secularism while also addressing a myriad of matters which bear directly on faith and morals.

Take, for instance, the issue of contraception. It is no exaggeration that a faithful Orthodox Christian can go to three different priests in the same American city and receive three disparate answers expressing everything from absolute prohibition to prohibition of abortifacient only to complete permissibility. Who is right? Who is wrong? Even if the local ruling bishop of a given priest speaks authoritatively on the matter (which is rare), there’s always another hierarch of another jurisdiction who may go the other way. The problem does not stop there. Fr. John Whiteford, a prominent priest and commentator in ROCOR, recently opined that one of the possible motivators for his church’s decision to distance itself from the Bishops’ Assembly was because other North American Orthodox jurisdictions “have laymen in good standing, and even clergy, who are openly advocating for gay marriage, and proclaim that committed monogamous homosexual relationships are not sinful.” What authority exists in Orthodoxy to tell them otherwise?

Of course the Catholic Church is not without its serious catechetical confusion and oversight shortfalls. Though the final word on the matter has yet to be issued, talk of schism is still in the air as Germany’s bishops are poised to allow Communion for Catholics who have divorced and remarried without having their first union annulled. Under a potential model borrowed from Orthodoxy, whereby the local bishops’ conference in Germany is handed—to use Pope Francis’ words—“genuine doctrinal authority,” what, or who, could authoritatively stop them from taking such an erroneous decision? At some point—hopefully sooner rather than later—Rome would have to speak and speak forcefully. However, if the EP tomorrow did the unthinkable and began to bless same-sex unions, what would follow from this? Perhaps a public admonishment from the MP or other local Orthodox churches, backed up by some dusty old canons, might be issued along with threats of excommunication, but at the end of the day it would be business as usual in Orthodoxy.

Our separated brethren in the East (including those now living in the West) have much instruction to offer Catholicism, particularly Roman Catholicism. The beauty, integrity, and reverence of Orthodox liturgy should put us to shame for the barrage of banalities and (sometimes literal) clownishness which invaded Roman Rite worship in the wake of Vatican II. Orthodox theology, despite the insistence of some concerning its intrinsic “anti-Western” bent and “impenetrable mysticism,” offers a complementary pathway to truth built on the towering thought of the Eastern Doctors who are part of the entire Church’s intellectual patrimony. In a sense Pope Francis was right: we ought to look at Orthodoxy’s experience of collegiality and synodality, albeit as a sobering warning rather than a ready-made model for imitation.

Gabriel S. Sanchez is an author and independent researcher living with his family in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Re: What Not to Learn from Eastern Orthodoxy [Re: Tomassus] #404151 03/14/14 09:05 AM
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Rubbish.

Talk about a red herring with Sanchez's canard about same sex marriage. "Pot, meet kettle" comes to mind as the the Catholic communion has far more discordant voices worldwide on the local level urging same sex marriage and other heretical changes to dogma than does Orthodoxy.The Papal and Curial model haven't eliminated that trend.

ROCOR's Father Whiteford engages in the worst form of calumny regarding his "claims" regarding supposed support for so-called "gay marriage" within the Orthodox Church. For a Catholic commentator to cite them authoritatively as proof of his theory is absurd, and insulting

The supposed heretical utterances of some unidentified laymen or even clergy hardly serves as a basis to characterize the Orthodox Church's position on such matters. The same mindset of triumphalist "traditional" Orthodox struts around and loves to condemn the Church of Rome over her random aberrations in liturgical practice (oft repeated clown mass videos or puppet shows - as if they were in any way normative), activist, feminist nuns advocating radical changes to Catholic dogma or other oddities in the exponentially larger communion of the Church of Rome.

I suspect Sanchez didn't bother to read the clear, forthright and unambiguous admonition regarding abortion and marriage issued by His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew in his 2013 Nativity message, read in all parishes under his omophor worldwide. http://www.goarch.org/news/patriarxikiapodixeisxristougennon2013-en Moscow, the OCA and others have made similar statements.

We Orthodox and you Catholics live in an imperfect world. Yes, Orthodoxy is struggling with primacy, conciliatory and syndodal vision in the modern world.

News Flash: So is Rome.

We can be man and woman enough to take notice that our respective Churches fall short of the ideal. We can, and must learn from each other. But - this has been true for all time. No good is served by one sided, inaccurate polemic masquerading as apologia or commentary.

We have much to learn from each other and this article fails miserably if that was the author's intent.

Re: What Not to Learn from Eastern Orthodoxy [Re: Tomassus] #404152 03/14/14 09:14 AM
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Well said, David!!

Many years,

Neil


"One day all our ethnic traits ... will have disappeared. Time itself is seeing to this. And so we can not think of our communities as ethnic parishes, ... unless we wish to assure the death of our community."
Re: What Not to Learn from Eastern Orthodoxy [Re: DMD] #404157 03/14/14 02:28 PM
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If your post had a 'like' button, DMD, I would press it.

Re: What Not to Learn from Eastern Orthodoxy [Re: Tomassus] #404160 03/14/14 02:58 PM
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DMD:

Great post!

Your unworthy brother in Christ;
Sean Forristal

Re: What Not to Learn from Eastern Orthodoxy [Re: Tomassus] #404164 03/14/14 04:23 PM
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Greetings, all. I'm fairly new here.

I concur wholeheartedly with you, DMD, that this fellow doesn't get it. I would add that although many of the spats and disputes between the Patriarchs of the various churches are scandalous and at times obnoxious, I'd much prefer the faithful to know that there are problems and that efforts are underway to remedy them than the alternative that is so prevalent in the West - liberal or rogue bishops going their own way while towing the line with the Papacy.

I live in Fr. Whiteford's area and have met him before. I believe he is a good and faithful priest, but he definitely has a reputation for "leaping off the deep end" from time to time. Some of the resources he's assembled for his parish definitely have a "ROCOR-exceptionalist" bent to them.

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Re: What Not to Learn from Eastern Orthodoxy [Re: Tomassus] #404165 03/14/14 05:00 PM
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I must say that the magazine in question is not exactly open to ecumenical dialouge with the Orthodox if the comments reflect its tilt. Yikes...

When I hear Roman apologetics speak of 'Orthodox moral laxity' I become far less charitable than is my normal disposition. Frankly, it brings out the part of me which was known for not suffering fools gladly when practicing law back in the day.

Yes, we disagree on aspects of moral teaching relative to divorce, remarriage and contraception. How much of those differences are actually reflective of core dogmatic disagreement and how many of them are routed in genuine theological differences of interpretation is above my paygrade, but that is an argument for a latter time.

IF the actual practice of the faithful of the Roman communion mirrored the Church's teachings on divorce, for example, perhaps our teaching on the subject might be subject to serious criticism. But, even as the Pope in Rome is looking for the means to address the disconnect between words and practice, I hear the same old same old coming from the Latinist triumphalist corner.

I am well aware that Orthodoxy has its own triumphalist apologists. I don't like them either so I am consistent on that point.

But I believe in my heart of hearts that it is the triumphalist corners that contributed to our divisions in the first instance and continue to perpetuate the perceptions and realities which divide our communions.

I'll take to heart what men like Popes Benedict and Francis have to say about us and what men like Patriarch Bartholomew and his immediate predecessors say about you over the comments found in the magazine.

Thanks for listening.

Re: What Not to Learn from Eastern Orthodoxy [Re: DMD] #404168 03/14/14 06:59 PM
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Rather than acting in a way likely to give the Church unity and proper direction, Pope Francis' idea of giving "doctrinal authority" to bishops conferences will only further weaken the authority of the Roman Pontiff. The Church desperately needs unequivocal leadership that is doctrinally sound as well as pastorally merciful. Giving near schismatics, (as the German RC Bishops' Conference) the idea that they have the authority to legislate independently is probably the worst thing that could happen at this point.

However, it would only be a continuation of the weakening of papal authority perpetrated by John Paul II and nothing new. And, it probably wouldn't fly, given even the weakened Dogmatic Constitution on the Church given at Vatican II. Were I a conspiracy theorist, I might smell an agenda here to destroy the papacy and install goddess democracy.

Re: What Not to Learn from Eastern Orthodoxy [Re: Tomassus] #404174 03/15/14 10:16 AM
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Seriously this is sickening. I've come to expect this sort of anti-Orthodox propaganda from (many or even most) Catholic bloggers and forums, but it is pretty low for Crisis Magazine to sink.

Re: What Not to Learn from Eastern Orthodoxy [Re: Peter J] #404175 03/15/14 10:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Peter J
I've come to expect this sort of anti-Orthodox propaganda from (many or even most) Catholic bloggers and forums,


Originally Posted by Roman refugee
Were I a conspiracy theorist, I might smell an agenda here to destroy the papacy and install goddess democracy.


(emphasis added)

Thank you, Roman Refugee, that's an excellent illustration of my comment.

Re: What Not to Learn from Eastern Orthodoxy [Re: Tomassus] #404176 03/15/14 10:33 AM
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To All:

I think we may be living in the "Great Tribulation," but this is my humble opinion. Truly, the shepherd has been struck and the sheep have scattered; the history of the modern Papacy beginning with Pope Paul VI. "And we like sheep have gone astray and have turned every man to his own way." Let us fervently pray that Pope Francis and his successors will have the intestinal fortitude to not teach in a manner pleasing the world; so, that "When the Son of Man returns," he will find "Faith on earth."

Maybe, it is the time for the Orthodox Churches to speak in one voice on the immorality of civil divorce accompanied by civil remarriage and contraceptives. The prophetic voice of Humanae Vitae has come true, for new levels of immorality have arisen in our time. Familaris Consortio must be exhausitively revisited as well. We are gradually being led by secularists into a new Sodom and Gomorrah, but for us it will be worse, "For we have seen the miracles of God." Perhaps, these issues will be dealt with in the 2016 Orthodox Synod called for by His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew. I know that Orthodox Jews and devout Muslims believe that contraceptives are wrong.

We cannot learn anything from each other unless we are united in clear understandings of morality and theology. Those radically liberal clerics aforementioned, whether Catholic or Orthodox, are following the councils of the devil. Let us all pray for the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel in these diabolical times. There are secularists who are in the council of the devil and who desire the destruction of Christianity, but let us oppose them to their faces, by unifying under the banner of Christ in all aspects of faith and morals; for a "house divided will not stand."

God bless you all!

Your unworthy brother in Christ;
Sean Forristal

Re: What Not to Learn from Eastern Orthodoxy [Re: Sean Forristal] #404178 03/15/14 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Sean Forristal
To All:

I think we may be living in the "Great Tribulation," but this is my humble opinion. Truly, the shepherd has been struck and the sheep have scattered; the history of the modern Papacy beginning with Pope Paul VI. "And we like sheep have gone astray and have turned every man to his own way." Let us fervently pray that Pope Francis and his successors will have the intestinal fortitude to not teach in a manner pleasing the world; so, that "When the Son of Man returns," he will find "Faith on earth."

Maybe, it is the time for the Orthodox Churches to speak in one voice on the immorality of civil divorce accompanied by civil remarriage and contraceptives. The prophetic voice of Humanae Vitae has come true, for new levels of immorality have arisen in our time. Familaris Consortio must be exhausitively revisited as well. We are gradually being led by secularists into a new Sodom and Gomorrah, but for us it will be worse, "For we have seen the miracles of God." Perhaps, these issues will be dealt with in the 2016 Orthodox Synod called for by His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew. I know that Orthodox Jews and devout Muslims believe that contraceptives are wrong.

We cannot learn anything from each other unless we are united in clear understandings of morality and theology. Those radically liberal clerics aforementioned, whether Catholic or Orthodox, are following the councils of the devil. Let us all pray for the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel in these diabolical times. There are secularists who are in the council of the devil and who desire the destruction of Christianity, but let us oppose them to their faces, by unifying under the banner of Christ in all aspects of faith and morals; for a "house divided will not stand."

God bless you all!

Your unworthy brother in Christ;
Sean Forristal

Um, are you the same Sean Forristal who said
Originally Posted by Sean Forristal
DMD:

Great post!

Your unworthy brother in Christ;
Sean Forristal

Re: What Not to Learn from Eastern Orthodoxy [Re: Peter J] #404181 03/15/14 11:20 AM
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^^ On second thought, I guess I was a bit needlessly sarcastic there. My apologies.

Re: What Not to Learn from Eastern Orthodoxy [Re: Tomassus] #404182 03/15/14 12:36 PM
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Peter J and All:

Yes, both posts are mine and authentically so. I have great disgust for people judging the Whole of something based on a few fringe members. Truth and Virtue are found in the middle, not on the extremes. You can be sarcastic all you like Peter J, there is freedom of speech in this forum.

In my view, I believe much of what is going on in Christ's Church and in society is of demonic origin, for the devil wishes to destroy them both. We must stand united in faith and morals to weather the coming storm; I have read much commentary from ultra-radical secularist on religious news articles that believe religion is a hoax and must be left for dead. All over the world Christians are being persecuted, even in the US Christians are persecuted by employers who do not tolerate any religious expression or dialogue in the office, especially in governmental offices. Being somewhat pessimistic, I believe these persecutions will increase.

Christ's Church does not operate in a vacuum. Bishops, priests, and deacons are all very effected by society and culture. The sexual abuse crisis of the West in 2001 revealed that there are many homosexuals in the ministry of the Church; 80% of the cases were cases of "Pederasty" on pubescent and post-pubescent boys, 10% actual pedophiles on boys, and a minuscule amount on girls along with an "other" category. One can read about the seminary days of the late 60's and 70's in a book entitled "Good bye Good Men" and realize that homosexuality was present in leadership and seminarians. Maybe, the East had this same problem or may face this problem in the future. What solutions there are for this reality are anyone's guess.

May the Orthodox Synod in 2016 prove to be a source of greater unity on the moral issues of contraceptives and civil-divorce civil re-marriage between East and West. Sacred Writ makes both issues clear (see Mark 10 and the sin of Oman in Genesis). I believe Patriarch Bartholomew to be very holy and wise; and hopefully, the other Patriarchs will follow his good example, especially Patriarch Alexi.

I do not mean to be preachy, lecturing, or dividing. The stakes are high for East-West unity because society is going insane and to "Pot" in many places. Unity would strengthen both East and West; "we are all in this together" my former SD and pious priest from Burma always told me. May God bless, protect, and guide His Church and all of us in these desperate/demonic times!

Your unworthy brother in Christ;
Sean Forristal

Re: What Not to Learn from Eastern Orthodoxy [Re: Sean Forristal] #404184 03/15/14 12:45 PM
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Well, I'm glad you're still on the forum, fwiw -- that of course doesn't change the fact that I think some of your posts are a bit out in left field. blush

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