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It’s about Jesus

posted by awelborn

Very interesting and pertinent piece by Sam Torode, convert from evangelicalism to Orthodoxy, on his renewed appreciation of the former

I’m a grateful member of the Orthodox Church, and I’m happy to talk about the glories of this path as well as the struggles. I believe that the "trappings" of Orthodoxy—icons, liturgies, rote prayers, and other things evangelicals often are suspicious of—can bring us closer to Christ. But when these things become ends in themselves—idols instead of icons—we need to step back and remember what, or who, it’s all about.

Instead of "evangelizing" my evangelical friends, I now hope to learn from them. Discussing differences is worthwhile, but it’s more important to encourage each other as we grow in Christ.

It took me a while, but I think I’ve finally learned what really matters. Liturgical is not enough, sacramental is not enough, Catholic is not enough, and Orthodox is not enough. Only Jesus is enough.



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Mark Adams

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:37 am


Liturgical is not enough, sacramental is not enough, Catholic is not enough, and Orthodox is not enough. Only Jesus is enough.
Well yeah . . . It’s kind of hard to argue with that but it still seems kind of off for reasons I don’t have the time to make myself articulate.



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Nancy

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:42 am


It sounds right on to me!



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T. Chan

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:44 am


Makes one wonder if he understands that the sacraments are channels of grace and necessary for strengthening the spiritual life _in Christ_, and that the liturgy is the greatest prayer of the Church and done _in Christ_.



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T. Chan

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:46 am


Unless, he is purposely criticizing the lack of proper catechesis that leads to the separation of the liturgy and the sacraments from authentic Christian spirituality.



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David Deavel

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:47 am


I take it Torode is right, but this notion that all the “trappings” aren’t enough is simply part of the Tradition, East and West. The consequences of good actions, even sacramental ones, can be annulled partially or fully by the bad or idolatrous intention of the Christian. Nothing new there.
As a strategy for talking to Evangelicals, I think he’s dead on. The people I’ve tried to convince of the fullness of the Tradition aren’t interested. The people to whom I’ve listened and then affirmed in what is good and part of the Tradition, while mentioning other parts that they don’t have, often realize that what spiritual truths they thought were DISTINCTIVE to Evangelical Protestantism are simply not distinctive–and that the Catholic Church has many many more truths that simply aren’t there in Evangelicalism. That’s what I realized when I converted.



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kathleen reilly

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:52 am


quote from the link: “We joined a parish of mostly ex-Protestants who, like us, were eager to be good Orthodox. We looked down on those ‘ethnic Orthodox’ who still eat their gyros and feta cheese during Lent.”
Bracing honesty from a convert. (But I’m not sure if he has gotten over his qualms about the “ethnic” nature of his fellow orthodox. feta cheese and gyros … is that all they eat? …)
Speaking as a cradle catholic, I’m really really glad one never runs into that attitude among converts to catholicism. :)



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Christine

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:56 am


“Only Jesus is enough.” Well, yes. But His Church is made up of incarnate beings who live through their bodies and senses.
The “catholic” way of seeing things finds God present through many of the things of this world. Nothing he has made is alien to him.
I still sense from the article the old evangelical suspicion of the material as a vehicle for the divine. I have difficulty in affirming that as evangelicals and Catholics, or Orthodox, all that we need to do is affirm that we all love Jesus and that’s that.



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Maureen

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:00 am


Well, that’s the point.
A) Really loving Jesus is difficult.
B) Really loving Jesus makes you do good things, even if they are really difficult.
C) [Insert clashing cymbal line here]
D) You don’t really love Jesus if you don’t really love people, including your enemies.
E) Really loving Jesus is difficult.



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Christine

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:02 am


“(But I’m not sure if he has gotten over his qualms about the “ethnic” nature of his fellow orthodox. feta cheese and gyros … is that all they eat? …)”
Kathleen, one of the darkest and unspoken secrets of converts (like me!!) to the Catholic Church is that yes, we joined because we believe it’s true but more importantly, our adopted faith brings a whole smorgasbord of new ethnic treats at church events that we never got to sample as Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, etc. etc. I mean, as far as Lutherans go, how many pork and sauerkraut dinners and lutefisk can you eat and still remain sane????



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bruce cole

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:06 am


So, Christine it was the lutefisk, and not the laser beams…your case gets weirder all the time.



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Jeff

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:08 am


I think as a strategy or an attitude, this has much to recommend it.
But “Catholicism is not enough” makes me nervous. Of course, it is susceptible to orthodox interpretations, but I can just see someone’s teenager coming back to his mother after having left the Church and joined the Pentecostals saying, “But Mom, didn’t you always say the point of it all was Jesus? The Church doesn’t matter, it’s Jesus that matters.”
No more Eucharist, no more sacraments, no more Mother of God. And a heartbroken Mother of Teenager.
A generous and humble approach with much truth in it, but there’s something to worry about here.



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Christine

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:17 am


Maureen, I don’t dispute one bit everything you have stated but it avoids the issue of what kind of church the apostles were commissioned to lead. The evangelical movement is young in terms of history and obedience to the commands of the Lord is one of the hallmarks of the Church. That obedience includes Baptism and Holy Communion.
When Jesus commands us to receive his Body and Blood, that our very spiritual lives depend on it, it is dishonest to pretend it doesn’t matter as long as we all “love” each other. I say that with the full knowledge that even those Churches that hold dear to this treasure are made up of sinful human beings.



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David Deavel

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:18 am


Forgive me, I commented before I read Torode’s actual article–I had only read Amy’s comments. The article itself does seem much more problematic and, like one commenter has said, suspicious of the bodily. As well, it has the same problem with definitive authority that Evangelicals and some Orthodox share. It seems to assume that truth simply floats through the air and not that it is rooted in a body.



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Christine

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:19 am


Bruce — weirder yes, but truly unique, no?? Believe me, if all combatants in the distressing situations around the world were forced to eat lutefisk we would find a way to make peace pronto!!



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Jason

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:22 am


I get the “spirit” of what the author is trying to say, although I wouldn’t frame it exactly how he did, particularly for a Protestant audience.
Anything can come under the influence of legalism. Anything. When I first became Catholic, I was very legalistic about evangelization (a key principle of Evangelicalism). So long as I mentioned something about the faith, no matter what the situation, I had fulfilled my duty. Of course, sometimes it’s better to just shut your mouth and wait for the right time.
Evangelicals reading the Bible or handing out tracts in the street can easily fall into legalism. “I have to read the Bible”, or “I have to go hand out tracts.” This doesn’t mean reading the Bible or handing out tracts are inherently “legalistic” actions, anymore than going to Mass or Confession are.
We have to constantly remind ourselves that our goal is union with God. If we do so, and carry out our faith with that mission, Catholicism certainly is “enough” because Jesus is here, in body, in spirit, and in any other way you can think of.



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Noah Nehm

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:22 am


The flesh is the hinge of salvation – Tertullian
It’s interesting that the Torode’s first break with Evangelicalism was their re-evaluation of the morality of contraception. They concluded, as evangelicals, that it was unbiblical and immoral, and wrote the book “Open Embrace” to give their reasons why. Now, they’ve come over to a sacramental church.
Interestingly, the Hahns had a very similar course of conversion.
Malcolm Muggeridge, another convert, one wrote in 1978 – four years before being received in the Catholic Church:

If I were to find myself Pope . . . I should . . . meditate upon the . . . confusion, strife, and lunacy following Pope John’s Vatican Council and the amazing decision resulting therefrom to have another Reformation . . . My first venture . . . would be to reissue Humanae Vitae . . . reinforcing its essential point that any form of artificial contraception is inimical to the Christian life . . . The divorcement of eroticism from its purpose, which is procreation, and its condition, which is lasting love, consequent upon the practice of artificial contraception, was proving increasingly disastrous to marriage and the family.

I find it interesting that for many people, the Church’s teaching on sexuality – definitely a sign of contradiction – is a major impetus to their conversion.



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Derek

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:23 am


“It took me a while, but I think I’ve finally learned what really matters. Liturgical is not enough, sacramental is not enough, Catholic is not enough, and Orthodox is not enough. Only Jesus is enough.”
Arius would have loved to leave it at that. So would Marcion, Velentinius, and probably every heretic that would destroy the Church. It just won’t do. If ‘Jesus is enough’, then we don’t need Scripture, Tradition, the Magisterium, the Church, Dogma, the Sacraments, etc. But we do need them.
In the end, the statement is merely sentiment, though a lovely one.



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Fr. Shawn O'Neal

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:30 am


Evangelicals become Orthodox for same reason that Baptists become Episcopalians: they want the ritual but not the ecclesiology.
Peter received authority from Jesus. Paul received authority from Jesus. They helped write the Bible. The Bible didn’t come first.
The Orthodox Church, or any other “church” looks great as long as folks want human leaders who are bound only to offer good suggestions.



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Joe

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:37 am


All the negative comments floor me. Would these same folk also dismiss C.S. Lewis as suspect, problematic, or worse? Catholic is NOT enough: witness the scores of virtusal pagans at Masses each week, and John Paul II’s appeal to evangelize amongst ourselves. Torode obviously doesn’t thinl ‘it’s “just Jesus” in every sense, or he would not have converted. But it IS just Jesus in a way that makes Protestants “brethren” that bear the mark of Christ. Over and over again it stuns me to discover such a derisive spirit amongst many Catholics towards Evangelicals, when there was no such attitude and much the opposite within the ranks of the bishops at Vatican II and the present papacy.



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Joe

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:38 am


All the negative comments floor me. Would these same folk also dismiss C.S. Lewis as suspect, problematic, or worse? Catholic is NOT enough: witness the scores of virtual pagans at Masses each week, and John Paul II’s appeal to evangelize amongst ourselves. Torode obviously doesn’t thinl ‘it’s “just Jesus” in every sense, or he would not have converted. But it IS just Jesus in a way that makes Protestants “brethren” that bear the mark of Christ. Over and over again it stuns me to discover such a derisive spirit amongst many Catholics towards Protestants, when there was no such attitude and much the opposite within the ranks of the bishops at Vatican II, and the present papacy. Just read Ratzinger’s autobiography. Instead of Lutheran bashing, he talks about what he learned from them.



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Nancy

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:50 am


I can just see someone’s teenager coming back to his mother after having left the Church and joined the Pentecostals saying, “But Mom, didn’t you always say the point of it all was Jesus? The Church doesn’t matter, it’s Jesus that matters.”
No more Eucharist, no more sacraments, no more Mother of God. And a heartbroken Mother of Teenager.

Not unless Mother of Teenager is lacking a few brain cells.
People, most especially including teenagers, go through a lot of phases. Because your 15 year old daughter announces that The Only Moral Thing is To Be a Vegan doesn’t mean, necessarily, that she’ll never have a hamburger again. That she puts a ring in her eyebrow doesn’t mean it will still be there when she’s 25. (News flash: eyebrow pierces grow out. By themselves.) Even more problematically, if she announces that she’s joining some weird cult and shaving her head, the wise Mom will nod and say, “How nice, dear! Tell me all about it!” and then emphasize the positive. No matter how hard she has to look.
If my teenager decides that he/she is is love with Jesus, whatever group he/she joins, I’m ready to rejoice. He or she will hopefully plumb the depths of this group while he or she is plumbing the depths of Jesus.
Maybe the Pentecostals will prove, in the end, inadequate.
On the other hand, one of the holiest people I know, a woman with whom I have been closest friends for over 40 years, my sister/myself, my alter ego, is a Pentecostal. She’s a lot closer to Jesus than I am, and believe me, I know what I’m talking about, in both cases.
Folks here are ready to write this off because she isn’t a Roman Catholic???



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Christine

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:51 am


Joe,
As someone who has only the deepest respect for my Lutheran heritage (as does Bill Cork over at Ut Unum Sint) I would humbly submit that the issues are even more complex that you state.
I would never bash Lutherans. But as a result of a continuing destruction of historical Christianity in that body, some very practical problems have arisen. The ELCA began to provide medical benefits covering elective abortions for their female clergy. The views held by ELCA Lutherans on marriage, family and worship are now very different from what they were when I was growing up. Cardinal Ratzinger well knows the problems that remain between the Catholic and Lutheran Churches and there won’t be a quick resolution to them.
From the time that Constantine legalized Christianity the Church has had pagan masses, but Christ’s light and truth continue to shine through her to those who have “ears to hear.”
I also suspect that the great C.S. Lewis, from what I’ve gleaned from his wonderful books, would be very uncomfortable in the Anglican Church as she is today.



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hieronymus

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:52 am


Christocentric but non-sacramental and non-ecclesiastcial Evangelicalism is like a bodiless head. Rote, going-through-the-motions-only Catholicism or Orthodoxy is like a headless body. Either one eventually bleeds to death and dies.
That shouldn’t surprise anyone. The debate here seems to be: Should the headless body admire the bodiless head, or should the bodiless head admire the headless body? Which is a pretty silly question, if you ask me.



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Christine

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:52 am


I need to modify my prior post somewhat, to the views held by SOME ELCA Lutherans. There is a definite struggle going on between the Lutherans in the pews and the ELCA governing body in Chicago, as witness by the happenings at the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly, in progress as we speak.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:57 am


Joe,
Catholics who affirm the Magisterium believe that Protestants are mistaken about some quite important matters of faith. You seem to be suggesting that it’s always ‘derisive’ for Catholics to talk about these matters of disagreement. It would seem to follow from this suggestion that Catholicism is, by its very nature, a derisive faith. Sounds like Catholic-bashing to me!



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Nancy

posted August 12, 2005 at 12:02 pm


On the other other hand, maybe being closer to Jesus than I am isn’t all that high a mark to shoot for. But you know what I mean.



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Stacey

posted August 12, 2005 at 12:02 pm


Seems to me that Torode is on a journey back to Evangelicalism. Or that he never wholly left it.
Even more problematically, if she announces that she’s joining some weird cult and shaving her head, the wise Mom will nod and say, “How nice, dear! Tell me all about it!” and then emphasize the positive.
Well then, I’m happy to be foolish. Just because something may be a phase doesn’t mean that I should be enthusiastic about it, or even unenthusiastically supportive of it. Sure, as a parent, you need to pick your battles, but I would never want to support my child doing something that would be dangerous to her soul. And leaving the Church is that.



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Jason

posted August 12, 2005 at 12:03 pm


Catholic is NOT enough: witness the scores of virtusal pagans at Masses each week, and John Paul II’s appeal to evangelize amongst ourselves.
I’m not sure how this follows.
A) There are a lot of people not living their Catholic faith, so
B) The Catholic faith is not enough.
If they were living their faith, they wouldn’t be “virtual pagans”, and Catholicism would in fact be “enough”.



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Tim F.

posted August 12, 2005 at 12:12 pm


Did anyone else notice the author might be arguing against a straw man?
“I can’t hand my free will over to a pope, priest, or spiritual father, even though these can be helpful guides. For example, I greatly admire Pope John Paul II’s teachings on marriage and sexuality, but I admire them for the beauty and truth I find there, not because I take them to be divine or infallible.”
Did anyone including Pope John Paul II declare these teachings(Theology of the Body I am assuming) to be infallible. And is real truth not ultimately infallible and divine? What kind of truth did he find in these teachings?



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Simon

posted August 12, 2005 at 12:18 pm


I’m with Joe — Torode has written a good, thoughtful essay against making the externals of Church life the ultimate object rather than the means toward Christ. I don’t agree with every word of it, but why so much strident negativity toward him?
And Fr. Shawn’s use of quotation marks around “church” in reference to the Orthodox is frankly uncalled for. Episcopalianism and Orthodoxy are not remotely analogous.



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Jeff

posted August 12, 2005 at 12:23 pm


I also agree with the spirit of the article, that nothing is of value unless it draws us closer to holiness in Christ.
However, I very much disagree with the implication that Jesus didn’t leave us with an infallible source of truth. I don’t follow the pope because of who he is, even though he is a holy man, but because of what he is, and Jesus’ promise to lead him.



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John J. Simmins

posted August 12, 2005 at 12:23 pm


“He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him” John 6:56
How much closer to Jesus do you want to get?



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Nancy

posted August 12, 2005 at 12:34 pm


Just because something may be a phase doesn’t mean that I should be enthusiastic about it, or even unenthusiastically supportive of it.
It’s strategic. At a certain age, upsetting you is the point of the activity. How to short-circuit? Don’t get upset. Don’t give her the pellet. Support her in her search for God, and let her find out for herself what works and what doesn’t.
She will eventually anyway, whatever you do or say. The question is, will she later on be willing to talk to you about it, or will you have built a wall between you?
This is when you find out whether you did a good job when she was little. If she’s solid, if she has good values, if she values herself, she’ll see through falsity pretty quickly.
And know that God guides her, just as He guides you, and that decisions made at 15 are rarely permanent.



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Mark AC

posted August 12, 2005 at 12:34 pm


For anyone who is curious here is a link to a response to this article from an Orthodox Priest, also a convert from Protestantism.



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Christine

posted August 12, 2005 at 12:49 pm


Very interesting link, Mark. The references to “externals” in the context that Mr. Torode are a classically “Protestant” way of looking at things. For an Orthodox Christian an icon is not an “external” — it really IS a window into heaven. And fasting is really not a matter of legalisms but entering into the spirit of allowing oneself to be reminded that fasting keeps our focus on the One who made the ultimate sacrifice for our salvation.
It is also a recurring error that some evangelicals think that many Protestants become Catholic because of a need for authoritative certainty. I’m sure that’s true in some cases but the discovery of the Catholic tradition prior to the Reformation is more often than not the reason.
I respect Torode’s views but I agree with the link that maybe he hasn’t been Orthodox long enough to really grasp the tradition he has chosen.



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Christine

posted August 12, 2005 at 12:50 pm


The references to “externals” in the context that Mr. Torode are — sigh — make that the references to “externals” in the context that Mr. Torode relates ….



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Fr. Shawn O'Neal

posted August 12, 2005 at 12:54 pm


Simon: Don’t quibble over the quotation marks.
I used the quotation marks in the manner that various congregations and denominations use the word “church”.
I know many Catholics who say what they do about Evangelicals because where I live many Evangelicals go out of their way to accuse Catholics of not even being Christians.



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Jeff

posted August 12, 2005 at 12:55 pm


Joe:
Point taken, but I certainly didn’t think I was being purely negative, just striking a cautionary note. There are always two sides on which one can fall off a horse. And we mustn’t forget that it MATTERS whether one is a Catholic or not, whether one is a member of the Church or not. Even for C. S. Lewis. He had a blind spot; let’s hope that it was excusable as it may well have been.
I love, admire, and frequently defend Evangelicals against the sneers of the smart set. I’ll take Jerry Falwell over Hans Kung any day. Still, they are missing something vital.



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted August 12, 2005 at 12:59 pm


Peter received authority from Jesus. Paul received authority from Jesus. They helped write the Bible. The Bible didn’t come first.
Fr. Shawn, with all due respect, so many Catholics have used that attitude to justify ignoring what the Bible has to say on so many things. Such Catholics are more willing to follow encyclicals and theologians without question rather than use Scripture to evaluate them.
May I remind you, Fr. Shawn, that when St. Paul preached to the Bereans, they evaluated his preaching against the OT, which they obviously considered divinely inspired?
May I also remind you, Fr. Shawn, that many Church traditions developed after the period described by Acts and the Epistles ended?
Torode’s article is more right on than most of you would care to admit. My distinct impression is that too many blogging Catholics effectively worship their denominational identity as God rather than God as God. This, of course, isn’t solely a Catholic problem (evangelical Protestants who claim that “Catholics aren’t Christians” also manifest it). But it is a problem, and we can’t confront it if we don’t admit that it exists.
Torode is right. Jesus is enough. He is God Incarnate. The Church as a body of believers or as an institution can’t redeem us. It cannot atone for our sins. Only Christ can do that. And without Christ, the Church is irrelevant.
To hear many blogging Catholics talk, it’s as if the Church came before Christ and defines Christ!



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Mark Adams

posted August 12, 2005 at 1:02 pm


Simon is right. The shots against Orthodoxy are uncalled for.
Joe, The reason I have reacted so negativly is that virtually no Christian tradition disagrees with the notion that “only Jesus is enough.” But what does that mean? The Eucharist is not mentioned. Why?



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Fr. Shawn O'Neal

posted August 12, 2005 at 1:09 pm


May I remind you that you can be a braying ass, but I agree with you that the Church has a fundamental responsibility: that it must only proclaim something as it has been inspired to do so according by the Holy Spirit and in conjunction with the mind of Christ.
We celebrate the fundamental components of the Mass as we do, the Eucharistic Prayer, because we believe these are the words Jesus spoke.
We baptize as we do because they are the words of Jesus.
But it does not escape the fact that many denominations prefer to hold tightly onto a text while attempting to pay no mind whatsoever to the fact that the text was composed and compiled by appointed people by the means of spiritual intercession.



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Jason

posted August 12, 2005 at 1:09 pm


“May I remind you, Fr. Shawn, that when St. Paul preached to the Bereans, they evaluated his preaching against the OT, which they obviously considered divinely inspired?”
The Bereans were JEWS, not Christians. Of course they checked what Paul had to say about his new religion against their Hebrew Scriptures. Paul was saying that those Scriptures had been fulfilled. They had not yet come to faith in Christ, and hence did not accept St. Paul Apostolic authority
What did Paul tell CHRISTIANS?
“If anyone does not obey our word as expressed in this letter, take note of this person not to associate with him, that he may be put to shame.” (2Thess 3:11)
I can just imagine one of those Thessalonian Christians telling Paul his letter didn’t quite square with the Old Testament.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 12, 2005 at 1:33 pm


“May I remind you that you can be a braying ass”
I’m moving to Father Shawn’s parish.



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Christine

posted August 12, 2005 at 1:44 pm


“The Church as a body of believers or as an institution can’t redeem us. It cannot atone for our sins. Only Christ can do that. And without Christ, the Church is irrelevant.”
Uh-huh. But it is the Church that, at the command of Christ, makes present his once-for-all sacrifice to which he joins his Body — that’s us — and presents us to the Father. We have nothing — absolutely nothing — to give God on our own — it is Jesus who catches us up into his saving, redemptive act. We can only come before the Father through him.
As St. Cyprian so eloquently preached during the persecutions of the early Christians, some of whom were tempted to renounce their faith under duress, “He who would have God as his father must also have the Church as his mother.”



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted August 12, 2005 at 1:47 pm


May I remind you that you can be a braying ass…
Fr. Shawn, I’m quite taken with your charity. I’m sure your parishoners find you profoundly inspirational.
By the same token, I find it a high complement to be compared to a “braying ass.” So was Balaam’s mode of transport, which had more sense than the collected wisdom of many church intellectuals.
…but I agree with you that the Church has a fundamental responsibility: that it must only proclaim something as it has been inspired to do so according by the Holy Spirit and in conjunction with the mind of Christ.
By that definition, therefore, you would have to oppose the USCCB’s attempts to ban capital punishment for murder in this country, since that campaign flatly contradicts the centuries-old teaching of Scripture (Gen. 9: 5-6) and Tradition (see Aquinas) on the subject.
For that matter, JPII’s comments about capital punishment in Evangelium Vitae would have to be viewed skeptically in the same light.
The Bereans were JEWS, not Christians. Of course they checked what Paul had to say about his new religion against their Hebrew Scriptures. Paul was saying that those Scriptures had been fulfilled. They had not yet come to faith in Christ, and hence did not accept St. Paul Apostolic authority.
Jason, there was no church hierarchy in the days of the apostles. There were only the apostles themselves, and they were an itinerant bunch. Once Paul and Barnabas separated, it was highly unlikely that one would know what the other was doing, considering the low-tech communications of that day. Besides, consider the following:
–There were many Gentiles whom the Jews called “God fearers” because they were sympathetic to Judaism (and would have at least some knowledge of the OT).
–Paul himself wrote to Timothy that “all Scripture (the OT in this context) is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
–Jesus Himself used Scripture (the OT) to justify and reinforce His claims.
So, in a sense, “the Bible did come before the Church,” only, in this case, the Bible was the OT.
This whole discussion points out a major flaw in much contemporary Christian thinking: the inability or refusal to consider the OT as divinely inspired in its own right, and to consider the NT in light of OT revelations. Too often, these testaments are seen as contradictory rather than complimentary, yet nothing could be further from the truth.



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Kevin

posted August 12, 2005 at 1:48 pm


The argument is really whether Jesus alone is sufficient for salvation. I would be hard to say He is not. However our personal faith and trust in Him are rarely perfect. He is, we are certainly not. I know mine is not. The issue is really where is our focus. We are not baptized in the name of the Catholic church but rather in the name of Jesus. Jesus is the focus and the Church is the lens.
From 1Corinthians Ch 1
Now this I say, that every one of you saith: I indeed am of Paul; and I am of Apollo; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul then crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I give God thanks, that I baptized none of you but Crispus and Caius: Lest any should say that you were baptized in my name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanus. Besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not in wisdom of speech, lest the cross of Christ should be made void.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 12, 2005 at 1:49 pm


“Fr. Shawn, I’m quite taken with your charity. I’m sure your parishoners find you profoundly inspirational.”
Something tells me that they do. I certainly would. Let us pray for more priests like Father Shawn!



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Christine

posted August 12, 2005 at 1:58 pm


–Jesus Himself used Scripture (the OT) to justify and reinforce His claims.
Yep, often beginning with “you have heard it said of old — but I say to you.”
The O.T. is the word of God — Jesus is the Eternal Word of God. There’s a difference. Luther wisely called Scripture the cradle of Christ but never in the fundamentalist sense that some evangelicals do.



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Mark Shea

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:05 pm


Joe D’Hippolito lecturing on charity is like Madonna lecturing on chastity. Give thou me a break.
“May I remind” your anointed prophetic majesty that you were the braying ass lecturing everybody about the need to pay attention to Scripture, Joe? Fr. Shawn was simply obeying the teaching of Proverbs 26:5.



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Christine

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:07 pm


“Let us pray for more priests like Father Shawn!”
Amen and Amen!!



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:13 pm


Christine, when Jesus said “you have heard it said — but I say to you,” He was referring to pseudo-religious conventional wisdom based on a faulty understanding of the OT, not the OT itself. Otherwise, why would Paul write to Timothy what he did?
Jesus pointed out the discrepancies between such conventional wisdom and the intent of the OT when he rebuked the Pharisees in Matthew 14: 4-6.
It’s quite possible that, if Jesus were living on this planet the way He was 2,000 years ago, He might say the same things concerning much Catholic conventional wisdom about Mary.



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Christine

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:18 pm


Joseph, it’s clear you didn’t understand my post. Be happy in your evangelical theology. It’s a free country.
Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us.
Oh, and for someone who called the bishops “lace-wearing fops” and some rather uncharitable titles you assigned to Pope John Paul II in some prior blogs, my advice is: physician heal thyself.



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Sam Torode

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:23 pm


I’m a regular skimmer of this blog–thanks much, Amy, for the link. All the comments have my head spinning! :-) I can’t respond to everything, but I’d like to add that I *do* believe the Eucharist is our most profound experience of Christ. The Eucharist was my main reason for becoming Orthodox. But once we became Orthodox, we found that there were many strings attached to Eucharist. I talk about fasting in the article. At one parish we visited last year, the priest warned that “one careless drink of water before liturgy disqualifies you from communion.” My wife and I wondered–would Jesus ever turn a disciple out of his presence for drinking water??? Weighted down by this atmosphere of legalism and the constant feeling that we were falling short of the fasting mark, we sank into spiritual depression. The article describes how we found freedom and positive energy in a Greek parish. As a result, we now enjoy closer friendships with our Christ-centered Evangelical–and Catholic–friends. If the article is read in this context, I hope misunderstandings will be avoided.



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Mark Shea

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:24 pm


Jason, there was no church hierarchy in the days of the apostles. There were only the apostles themselves, and they were an itinerant bunch.
Wrong.
Acts 14:23 describes the normative process of the apostles as they founded churches:
And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed.
These “elders” are basically the bishops of the local communities. They participate in the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 and the pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) make clear that their task is to govern the Churches.
Almost immediately after the apostolic period, we find documentation showing that these elders (episcopoi/presbuteroi) are themselves delegating their authority to men who have the authority to consecrate the eucharist and administer other sacraments. Your myth of a structureless early Church is an Evangelical fantasy, Joe.
So, in a sense, “the Bible did come before the Church,” only, in this case, the Bible was the OT.
No. For the “church” in the OT, the people of God, was Israel, who produced the Scripture under inspiration. Books, even inspired ones, are written by people.
This whole discussion points out a major flaw in much contemporary Christian thinking: the inability or refusal to consider the OT as divinely inspired in its own right, and to consider the NT in light of OT revelations. Too often, these testaments are seen as contradictory rather than complimentary, yet nothing could be further from the truth.
Joe, I defy you to find a single person on this list who thinks the OT is not inspired or believes it is contradictory to the New. The only person who says believe that is you.
On the other hand, you really *do* tend to talk as though the Church is the opposite of Christ:
“The Church as a body of believers or as an institution can’t redeem us. It cannot atone for our sins. Only Christ can do that. And without Christ, the Church is irrelevant.”
The Church is the Body of Christ. The separation and opposition between the two that you posit here is foreign to Scripture and to the Christ who said to Saul, as he persecuted the Church, “Why do you persecute *me*”.
Christ saves. But he *never* saves us without, by that very act, incorporating us into the life of the Church. To speak of the Church as a mere “human institution” is to be fundamentally blind to the Scriptures you claim to champion. According to Paul, the Church is no human institution but “the fullness of him who fills all in all (Eph 1:23).



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Mark Shea

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:31 pm


It’s quite possible that, if Jesus were living on this planet the way He was 2,000 years ago, He might say the same things concerning much Catholic conventional wisdom about Mary.
Though it’s far more likely that he would have some remarks for those who demonstrate Mariaphobic Allergic Reactions to *any* expression of affection for her.
Catholic and Orthodox affection for Mary is *normal*. It’s the weird Evangelical terror of her that needs explaining.
(Writing a book on Mary has keenly heightened my awareness that there’s something…. creepy about a lot of Evangelical attitudes to Mary. As Dale Price said, In another age, if Evangelicals talked about the mothers of Catholics they way they routinely talk about the Mother of Jesus, it would have been pistols at dawn.)



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hieronymus

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:32 pm


Let’s you and him fight.



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Patrick Sweeney

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:34 pm


Jesus founded one Church. That Church expresses the unity which Jesus prayed for – that we might be as one as
He and the Father are One. This is the Catholic Church. It is enough: the necessary and sufficient, one and true Church.
The Catholic Church is complete in itself in union with the Holy Trinity and the saints. In its divine foundation it is perfect.
There is nothing which other Churches possess uniquely and distinctly from the Catholic Church which a person needs for salvation.



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Mark Shea

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:38 pm


Sam:
It never ceases to amaze me how different communions can have the same pathologies (and, of course, corresponding virtues). It’s like listening to the same piece of music on different instruments or in different arrangements.
In the Catholic communion, you can, of course, find similar kinds of little legalisms. One youth pastor I once knew talked about some hard-core parish where everybody was *forbidden* from having coffee and donuts for 1/2 hour after Mass because it was a Scientific Fact that the Host was not digested till one half hour after communion.
There is no system of liberty, not even one God invents, the humans can’t turn into a weird little collection of shibboleths and whack rules. One of the hardest things for us to believe is that the law was made for man, not man for the law. Freedom is a scary burden.



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Derek

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:39 pm


I admire and respect Torode, I admire what I sense is a fundamental openness to the Truth, and his desire to find and follow. He has proven that over the years and my hope for him is that he will continue and ultimately find his way into the Roman Catholic Church.
I am in the process of converting from Evangelicalism. I do so at the height (however low that may be) of my reflective powers and after having studied the issue intensely for a long time (over a year). I daresay that most Christians (99% or so) NEVER make a informed, disinterested, choice in this matter at any age, much less in their maturity. Most simply stay within the bounds of Protestant or Catholic communities.
It is an immensely challenging task to be just in trying to go through this process.
One thing that has struck me as perhaps the most profound phenomena of the effort is that most of the most perceptive converts are to Catholicism. Newman, Bouyer, Chesterton, Soloviev, all converted to Catholicism. Where are the equivalent converts to Orthodoxy or Anglicanism or Calvinism (post 16th century please and for obvious reasons)? This is a massive witness in my thinking. It is most certainly the converts who demonstrate their passion for the truth in the matter (I am not saying all converts and I am not making myself out to be a monument to justice). The great ones even more so.



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Nguoi Dang Chay

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:43 pm


If I hear one more idiot use some variation of the “idols instead of icons” line they learned in Protestant brainwashing, I’m gonna do something which will necessitate going to confession.



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hieronymus

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:48 pm


Derek: I don’t think Soloviev ever “converted” in the sense that Newman did. There’s plenty about Eastern Orthodoxy that I find repellant, but I have to admit that a lot of intelligent and perceptive people convert to Orthodoxy – and that there seem to be more such converts to Orthodoxy from Catholicism than to Catholicism from Orthodoxy.
I basically agree with you (especially as regards to the relative intellectualism and maturity of converts to Catholicism from protestantism versus to protestantism from Catholicism) but we ought to be fair to the Orthodox here…



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Christine

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:50 pm


Hi Sam! You state “The Eucharist was my main reason for becoming Orthodox. But once we became Orthodox, we found that there were many strings attached to Eucharist.”
Can it be carried to extremes? Of course. I can understand what an adjustment it must have been coming from an Evangelical background. Catholics and the Orthodox have such a high reverence for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist that they have developed some practices that, hopefully, will make one stop, think, and consciously recognize the tremendous gift one is about to receive. Abstaining from water, or food, is one way.



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Simon

posted August 12, 2005 at 3:32 pm


Miscellaneous observations:
1. Joe D’Hippolito’s assertion that “there was no church hierarchy in the days of the apostles” is comic book Protestantism, completely untethered to historical fact.
Assignment: Read the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, written maybe a decade after the death of the Apostle John. The Church hierarchy consists of bishops, priests and deacons, and this fact isn’t a point of contention by Ignatius or something he is trying to introduce; it is taken for granted.
2. I accept Fr. Shawn’s admonition not to quibble. But I still think way too many Catholics here and elsewhere regard the Orthodox Church as just another non-Catholic entity that is outside the Church, much like Protestantism. This is not only wrong, it’s also inconsistent with Pope Benedict’s recent appeals for grass roots efforts to bring about reconciliation between Catholicism and Orthodoxy.
3. Am I the only one who is uncomfortable accepting the formulation, “It’s all about Jesus? The historic Christian practice, though disregarded completely by American evangelicals, is to direct our worship to God the Most Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. With respect to God the Son, through whom that worship is directed, Christians traditionally have been reluctant to use His name too casually, preferring out of reverence to speak of “Our Lord” or “Our Savior” or “Our Redeemer” etc. I know we live in 21st Century America, but this extremely casual use of the Holy Name of Jesus does unnerve me. But maybe I’m just quibbling again.



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Derek

posted August 12, 2005 at 3:34 pm


hieronymus,
Indeed. And your point is taken.
I am not clear on all the history of Soloviev. I do know he defended Catholicism and worked hard to have the Orthodox churches reunite with Rome. Balthasar certainly thinks he was Catholic. His book ‘The Russian Church and the Papacy’ certainly argues a deeply Catholic position.
I merely point out that it seems a powerful witness that no great converts have written about their conversion in the way Chesterton, Newman, Bouyer, and Soloviev have. Who are the equivalent high level conversions?
It is these converts that I would like to study.



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Fr. Shawn O'Neal

posted August 12, 2005 at 3:59 pm


First, I regret my lack of charity toward Joseph. Please forgive me. I should have returned a blessing instead.
***
Second, thanks for your comments, Sam. I wish all relationships were as cordial as can be found between Greek Orthodox and Catholics in the Charlotte area.
However, in other parts of western NC and in the USA, Orthodox congregants have engaged in an assault campaign against Catholics. We are accustomed to shots from the Evangelicals, but the tone taken by the Orthodox, especially that of Evangelicals who become Orthodox, causes quills to rise.
It all comes down to Jesus. The Church started from nothing other than the outpourings that came from Jesus. But where I live, people come from multiple angles who claim that either we are not Christians or we keep Jesus dead.



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patrick in ny

posted August 12, 2005 at 4:06 pm


* to use the insights of the fathers, IT ALL HINGES ON THE FLESH OF CHRIST and after pentecost, THE FLESH OF CHRIST HAS PASSED INTO THE SACRAMENTS.
there is a deeper dimension to the church where it really is Christ. and we actually encounter this Jesus in the church, they are one mystery on this level. this is the deepest level of ecclesial life…..where we encounter Christ within us, our hope of glory. only Jesus, yes, but where do we encounter this incarnate Jesus NOW? in his body the church.
of course the church is an institution with all its instiutional hassles and betrayals, of course we can all fall into legalism, ritualism and any other ideology that will cloud the essential…but these are deviations that need renewal and reform which comes from a renewal of faith, an incarnate faith that encounters the Lord in, through and with the sacraments of the Church.
it all hinges on the flesh of Christ, and we are oned with this flesh in the church, his body on earth.



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Tom

posted August 12, 2005 at 4:06 pm


I have recently come back home to the Church after having graduated with an MDiv from a Reformed Seminary and becoming a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. This move on my part opened up a discussion with a former fellow minister, who was and is horrified by my action. In the course of our dialogue, he made the move that a Protestant, especially when backed into a corner, just cannot help but typically make, he pitted the Church and the Sacraments against Christ. The fact of the matter is, Protestantism has, in many ways, sought to distill our Lord from the Church and the Sacraments.



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Art Deco

posted August 12, 2005 at 4:24 pm


Nancy writes:
People, most especially including teenagers, go through a lot of phases. Because your 15 year old daughter announces that The Only Moral Thing is To Be a Vegan doesn’t mean, necessarily, that she’ll never have a hamburger again. That she puts a ring in her eyebrow doesn’t mean it will still be there when she’s 25. (News flash: eyebrow pierces grow out. By themselves.) Even more problematically, if she announces that she’s joining some weird cult and shaving her head, the wise Mom will nod and say, “How nice, dear! Tell me all about it!” and then emphasize the positive. No matter how hard she has to look….It’s strategic. At a certain age, upsetting you is the point of the activity. How to short-circuit? Don’t get upset. Don’t give her the pellet. Support her in her search for God, and let her find out for herself what works and what doesn’t.
She will eventually anyway, whatever you do or say. The question is, will she later on be willing to talk to you about it, or will you have built a wall between you?

I seen that strategy fail, Nancy, and with ghastly results.



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Rod Dreher

posted August 12, 2005 at 4:54 pm


Sam Torode: But when these things become ends in themselves—idols instead of icons—we need to step back and remember what, or who, it’s all about.
What a truthful and most necessary thing to say. Being Catholic is not an end; Jesus is our beginning and our end. We as Catholics believe that being united to the Roman Catholic Church is the surest way of achieving that end, but the Church does teach that other Christian churches may also have the means of salvation. This is what I find so bloody frustrating about so many orthodox Catholics: this rote insistence that being officially confirmed as a member of the Roman Catholic Church is the point of everything, and if you have that, well, what are you complaining about? “Hey, look at those Presbyterians, look at the light coming out of them! They really seem to love Christ, and each other!” (But they don’t have the Magisterium, so they’re not worth taking seriously.) “Hey, the Orthodox liturgy is transcendently beautiful, and they seem to love each other and help each other.” (But they are schismatics, so screw ‘em.)
And so forth.
A few years ago, my wife and I were visiting our friends the Mathewes-Greens in suburban Maryland. Fr. Gregory M-G is an Eastern Orthodox priest. We sat through the first half hour of Divine Liturgy, which was incredibly beautiful, and left after the first 10 minutes of his sermon, which was doctrinally meaty. For we had to get down the road to mass at the Catholic parish.
Which was an AmChurch disaster. The church, an Our Lady of Pizza Hut special from the 1970s, was bereft of statues or anything to tell you that you were in a Catholic church. The altar girls proceeded in with the pastor, all singing “On Eagle’s Wings” or somesuch twaddle. The pastor ended up giving a sermon about how much he was going to enjoy his retirement in Florida, and who added at the end, almost as an afterthought, a very short commentary on the Gospel — which totally inverted the plain meaning of the passage! I was so dispirited and upset that I walked out. This mass was a disgrace.
Now, if I lived in that town, and the only choice I had was this Catholic parish or Holy Cross Orthodox church, which one would I be more likely to become a saint in? In which one would my children be more likely to grow up as convinced followers of the Lord? There is absolutely no question in my mind that it is that Orthodox parish. That being the case, what is the justification for taking one’s family to that dismal Catholic parish when we know that the Orthodox parish not only has valid Sacraments, but that Jesus is alive there in more than just the Blessed Sacrament?
It really is ultimately all about Jesus, and following Him.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 12, 2005 at 5:04 pm


Rod I know that this may not satisfy you, but it’s also possible to attend the Saturday Evening Mass at the Pizza Hut Church, and then the Sunday Liturgy at the Orthodox Church. You should also make it clear to Father Pizza why he is forcing you to do both.



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pha

posted August 12, 2005 at 5:30 pm


Simon wrote: Fr. Shawn’s use of quotation marks around “church” in reference to the Orthodox is frankly uncalled for.
I agree. And though Simon later let it go, I disagree with Fr. Shawn when he says “Don’t quibble over the quotation marks.” Those quotation marks appeared to implicitly deny something that the Catholic Church’s official documents affirm, namely that Orthodox Churches are Churches. The quotation marks are therefore offensive. If Fr. Shawn did not intend the insult I am very glad, but the statement did have the appearance of an insult. So instead of accusing someone else of quibbling, why not say “I’m sorry, I didn’t intend that to be insulting”?



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reluctant penitent

posted August 12, 2005 at 5:58 pm


The Orthodox are a puckish bunch. Very ready to tweak the noses of the Catlics but also very ready to cry foul when the Catlics tweak back. Ask Catholics in Russia, they’ll tell you all about it. And no the Pope does not approve this post.



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Mark Shea

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:10 pm


Rod:
Again, what strikes me is the *polarity* of the scenario you propose. First off, (and again speaking to your from Seattle, the Land of Hunthausen) I’m highly skeptical that a city big enough to *have* an Orthodox population is likely to be a city where every single Catholic parish is a barren wasteland that forces us to make a stark choice between the Virtuous and Vibrant (but, from a Catholic perspective heterodox) Orthodox parish and dragging our families through an endless pastoral nightmare among the soul- and brain-dead Catholic flock.
Second, I’m also unconvinced by the contrast between the preaching at the Pizza Hut and the generalization that your experience at the Orthodox church guarantees anything about Orthodoxy in general. The East has its quirks too, as Sam was pointing out. I once heard a Byzantine priest here in Seattle (beloved by his flock for his stern morality and his reverence for the sacraments) give a perfectly loony lecture. The first time he declared that Constantine was the Founder of the Church, I thought it was a slip of the tongue. The 20th time he did it, he made it clear that he really did believe Constantine was the Founder of the Church. Silly me. I thought it was Jesus. He also helpfully explained that the True City of God was not Heaven, but Constantinople. Should I have gotten up and stalked out, generalizing his stupid comments to the entirety of Eastern Christianity?
Nah. I just thought: priests say stupid crap sometimes. If I’d been at Mass when he said something idiotic like that, I would have received the sacrament, not denied myself the grace of God just because the priest was a dunce.



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Duece Bigalow

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:15 pm


Deuce Bigalow, European Gigolo here, and I think that’s awesome.
Come see my movie, in theaters August 12.
Thanks!



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reluctant penitent

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:19 pm


“I once heard a Byzantine priest here in Seattle … give a perfectly loony lecture.”
Well if he’s Byzantine Catholic his looniness is part of the ‘crisis in the Church’. If he’s Orthodox, on the other hand, it’s an exception that proves the rule that Orthodoxy is not experiencing a crisis.



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Keith R

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:21 pm


I read Fr. Shawn’s words to read that the Orthodox were a Church and the protestant denominations (with “Episcopalians” being one example) were “churches”…one (the Orthodox) have valid sucession and the others do not. The parallelism between his first and third paragraphs certainly reinforced such a reading of his words:
Evangelicals become Orthodox for same reason that Baptists become Episcopalians: they want the ritual but not the ecclesiology…
The Orthodox Church, or any other “church” looks great as long as folks want human leaders who are bound only to offer good suggestions.



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Jonathan Carpenter

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:22 pm


I guess I should be upset with the constant negativity about our church that Mr. Dreher puts out, when he should know better. Then again, what else can you expect from someone who believes in Mater Si Magistra No. Yes, there is scandal and corruption in the church but that does not give us the excuse to desert the church we claim to love! Real love means staying through the good times and bad, not just when it is hunkey dorey. If you want to participate and promote Orthodoxy you stay and work with those who are Traditionalists. You do not desert the church because some priests are still caught in some 60’s time warp. Most of you know their are rites within our church that promote Eastern Othodox style liturgy as well as the more beautiful Tridentine Mass, while still reforming the church from within. We should be better examples.



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Jonathan Carpenter

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:23 pm


I guess I should be upset with the constant negativity about our church that Mr. Dreher puts out, when he should know better. Then again, what else can you expect from someone who believes in Mater Si Magistra No. Yes, there is scandal and corruption in the church but that does not give us the excuse to desert the church we claim to love! Real love means staying through the good times and bad, not just when it is hunkey dorey. If you want to participate and promote Orthodoxy you stay and work with those who are Traditionalists. You do not desert the church because some priests are still caught in some 60’s time warp. Most of you know their are rites within our church that promote Eastern Othodox style liturgy as well as the more beautiful Tridentine Mass, while still reforming the church from within. We should be better examples.



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Rod Dreher

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:26 pm


Jonathan, I welcome your criticism, but not when you lie about me. I do not believe “Mater Si, Magistra No.” That is the title of a famous (infamous) old essay by William F. Buckley. He used to be my boss. We are not the same person. Please make a note of it.



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Mark Shea

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:38 pm


Reluctant:
This particular Byzantine priest was reflecting a rather common aversion to all things Western that you find all over the place in Orthodoxy. That was the *reason* for his weird emphasis on Constantine and his views on City of God. According to him, that over-hyped westerner Augustine got it all wrong and “spiritualized” the City of God into the Heavens whereas the East “incarnated” the City of God in Constantinople.
If Constantinople is Heaven, then we’re all in trouble.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:49 pm


“This particular Byzantine priest was reflecting a rather common aversion to all things Western that you find all over the place in Orthodoxy. That was the *reason* for his weird emphasis on Constantine and his views on City of God.”
Duh! That should have been obvious.
The ‘Constantinople is Heaven’ line is not much of a motivator to reluctant penitents.



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Andrew

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:51 pm


As a lifelong Orthodox Christian Sam Torode should be commended for this very refreshing article which honestly presents the strengths and weaknesses of Orthodox Living. What is commendable is that Mr. Torode sees that not all convert parishes are healthy and that the fullness of the faith can easily be found in humble cradle parishes where diverse people struggle daily. Not every truly healthy Orthodox parish is a convert parish.
“Celebrity” convert parishes represent a challenge to the future of Orthodox America and as Mr. Torode found out some are indeed spiritually unhealthy.
Sam Torode is a convert with good common sense which is something Orthodox Christianity in America desperately needs as it struggles to live the Gospel.
Orthodox Christians should be hopeful, the new younger generation of converts is going to be different than the previous generation. This is good news.



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Samuel J. Howard

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:57 pm


The Hillsdale College Buckely Archive is offline at the moment so I can’t find the text in question, but here:
http://tinyurl.com/8zd47
Buckley attributes the quote in question to Gary Wills.
Questioning the thinking in an encyclical is hardly infamous (not suggesting that you think it is Mr. Dreher), though some may call it so.



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Sherry Weddell

posted August 12, 2005 at 6:57 pm


I gotta agree with Mark – in 17 1/2 years as a Catholic, I’ve never had to settle for St. Pizza Hut as my local parish – even in Seattle at a time when a *lot of looniness* reigned. And Colorado Springs isn’t exactly the bright center of the Catholic universe either – although it is much less polarized than Seattle was – for which I am deeply grateful.
Now neither of my parishes was traditionalist (Blessed Sacrament in Seattle would come closest) but the preaching is good (and sometimes excellent), the pastors were orthodox (and sometimes brilliant) and both pastors were passionate about evangelism and thinking and teaching with the Church. In neither case, did I have to conduct a desparate search for these parishes – in both cases, they were the first parishes I got to know in town.
Could the spiritual landscape be completely barren in Rochester or Cincinatti? I suppose. But neither Seattle or Colorado Springs are exactly famous as Catholic centers and there were oasis to be found there. And then, of course, we created little supplementary oasis of our own such as the Catholic Study Group, the Names Lay Group, etc.
Was any of this perfect? Of course not, but neither was it barren or insupportable and there was a lot that was good – even very, very, good, even great.
“The times are nere so bad that a good man cannot make shift to live in them.”
St. Thomas More
I’m willing to be proved wrong but if orthodox Catholics can make shift to survive in Seattle under Hunthausen, I think they can make shift to survive in any other major US city – if we do not make our ideals the enemy of the good.



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Larry

posted August 12, 2005 at 7:03 pm


Let me try something. Call it a middle way.
1. Rod is right. No ifs, ands or buts. It IS about Jesus Christ.
2. Anything which qualifies that, even to the slightest degree, is an idol.
3. You can put yourself into a mode where you are so INTO being Catholic, or Lutheran or Orthodox or Reformed or Anglican that it becomes the center of your life. You can become a “geek” or “maven” who so really digs the doctrine and ideas and ethos of a particular intellectual and spiritual tradition that you lose sight of the One we are to follow and cling to.
4. Jesus becomes secondary, when this mode is chosen, consciously or unconsciously. Our tradition, our affiliation is what gives us energy and direction in our lives. It’s what we’re keen on. It centers us. It becomes a sort of hobby, like being a Civil War Buff. One can be a Catholic Buff or a Calvinist Buff.
5. Jesus’ authority and person can be used to justify or buttress the affiliation, but in this mode, Jesus is used as a supporter or “cat’s paw” to make the case stronger for the tradition of which you are a Buff, the tradition remaining the central focus of your interest and energy in life. The tradition is what consumes you and makes you get up in the morning, not Christ.
6. Enthusiasts of ALL traditions can be guilty of this.
7. The question which must always be asked: If you strip everything else away, I mean EVERYTHING, Is Jesus Enough?
8. Jesus is always enough.
9. Now. Channels of meaning and power. Listen to this. This was a big news story today: 9/11 oral histories and tapes released. Horror, pain, agony, fear, courage, honor. All there. People facing the End. The Doorway. The Passage. Seeing death. Fearing their own. What helps them cope? What girds them? What do they turn to, where do their thoughts go instinctively? What roots them on a morning of horror? What in them comes out in the moment of danger and fear? Their heritage, their teachings, their symbols. Rooted deep within all of us are things of power and refuge. A firefighter describes viewing people jumping out of the Towers, going to their death. She turns away. She is not supposed to see this. “I was getting sick. I felt like I was intruding on a sacrament. They were choosing to die, and I was watching them and shouldn’t have been. So me and another guy turned away and looked at a wall and we could still hear them hit.”
Catholic upbringing coming to the fore at a moment of truth? Very probably. There is a power and strength and meaning in Catholicism that persists. It is a channel or pathway to the Eternal that roots me still, though I have sometimes been in it and sometimes departed. It calls. It matters. There is power there.
Surely, surely we can put Jesus first. And simultaneously approach Him though channels that lift and sustain. Channels given to us by God.
This was not worded as coherently or as well as I might have liked, but I hope some of what I was intending came across.



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Jonathan Carpenter

posted August 12, 2005 at 7:06 pm


Mr. Dreher:
You may not agree with the belief put out by Mr. Buckley, but when you constantly pigeonhole any Priest or Bishop, based on the actions of corrupts Bishops and priests. The result is the de facto advocacy of Mr. Buckley’s essay. For those of you who do not know what it is, this essay basically accepts the church’s role as our mother, but deny’s their ability to be our teacher. Suppose I was to pigeonwhole you and your colleagues with the likes of Jason Blair, Dan Rather,Walter Duranty? These reporters who became no better than tabloid writers. You would think I was unjust and defaming all in your profession wouldn’t you? Of course you would. Then please do the same with the people who help teach us in their roles as priests. They are not all corrupt! You should be better than this.



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Rod Dreher

posted August 12, 2005 at 7:22 pm


Jonathan Carpenter: You may not agree with the belief put out by Mr. Buckley, but when you constantly pigeonhole any Priest or Bishop, based on the actions of corrupts Bishops and priests. The result is the de facto advocacy of Mr. Buckley’s essay.
Your reasoning is as sound as your spelling and grammar. As usual.



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Samuel J. Howard

posted August 12, 2005 at 8:24 pm


Rochester has excellent parishes as well. (Spent four years there in college.)



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Christine

posted August 12, 2005 at 9:15 pm


I wish Rod had been with me at the first Orthodox Church I visited when I was pondering whether to go east or west in my “catholic” leanings. Oh, the stares I got. It was very obvious to all that I was an outsider and no one — but no one — made the least attempt to reach out to me. Happens in Catholic churches too? No doubt. I am a great admirer of Frederica Mathews-Greene but to think that the Orthodox in toto don’t have their own bias against Latin Christianity is just not true. Many do. And there’s no little bit of that old caesaropapism left in some Orthodox enclaves.
As a fellow convert I find it frustrating that Rod assumes many of us are simply “toeing the party line” in remaining Catholics. Hey, my former Lutheran congregation couldn’t have been more congenial and “loving.” Fellowship suppers? We had ‘em by the dozen. Congeniality and a spirit of welcome were stressed constantly. But at this point in time some of the best theologians the Lutheran Church in the U.S. has ever had are bailing out for Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism, so far is the ELCA beginning to drift from Biblical Christianity. Luther’s bold “this is most certainly true” is morphing into “this will no longer do.”
We all had our reasons for converting, wherever it was. Mine wasn’t for “fellowship” or “community”. I’ve always felt intimately linked to my fellow worshippers by the connection we have through the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
The parish I currently attend is staffed by Benedictine fathers. The homily is always centered on one of the readings of the day. I come away renewed.
I couldn’t ask for more.



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Rod Dreher

posted August 12, 2005 at 9:54 pm


Christine, you make me want not to post here, because people read so much inaccuracy into what I write. What on earth makes you assume that I hold Orthodoxy to be pure? I was effectively driven out of an Odox parish I visited out of respect and curiosity in 1995 because I didn’t want to apologize for the sack of Constantinople. Goodness gracious, I admire Orthodoxy, but I don’t remotely think it is problem-free. I know better.
And I am not trying to tell people that they should leave Catholicism. Talking frankly about the problems we’re living through is part of being faithful to Christ and to the tradition we’ve been given. I’m thrilled (honestly) that you “couldn’t ask for more” from your situation. That is so hopeful! But that is not the experience of many of us, and I don’t see what’s wrong with saying so, and trying to find a way through this mess.
What grates on me is the shallow, even snide, responses some Catholics here post to genuine questions about the challenges many of us have to live through. That’s what I protest: the denigration of people who are struggling with this crisis, and the denigration of their own experiences and legitimate needs. It won’t do, it won’t do at all.
I got a call today from a rather big name in intellectual Catholicism in the US. He rang to ask me a few questions for a piece he’s writing. We talked for a while about many of the same questions we’ve been jawing over on these threads. You’d be startled if I told you who he was, but he was saying many of the same things I’m saying here, about the desert that is American Catholicism. It is simply wrong to tell people who are having a hell of a time trying to make sense of all this and hang on despite it all that they just need to buck up and say another rosary. Or whatever. It amounts to saying, “Just get over it.” What happens when you’ve been telling yourself to get over it for years, and it hasn’t been gotten over?



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Stacey

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:02 pm


What happens when you’ve been telling yourself to get over it for years, and it hasn’t been gotten over?
Rod,
I sure do wish I knew the answer to that question. I posted a very long time ago about problems with my parish and our decision to move to another one. Things are a little better there, but it is disheartening to have the sorts of problems that the parish has. Even though the priest is pretty orthodox in his personal beliefs, he doesn’t want to change much of what needs changing and I have such a hard time with that. It would almost be easier if he was a dissident, because then at least not changing the messed up stuff would make sense. When I finally realized that nothing was going to change, that was a bit of a crisis for me, for I had been holding on to the hope that it would. Then resignation set in. I struggle all the time with how our situation has affected our family’s faith life. The kids and I used to go to daily Mass and now that doesn’t usually happen…and often I feel like our faith is less well-integrated into our lives than it was.
I keep praying that when my husband gets his next assignment that it will be somewhere with a Latin Mass parish (or that he will retire from the military and we can settle someplace where there is). Of course, that won’t necessarily make everything hunky dory, but that’s the light at the end of the very long, very dry tunnel that I’m in. And that’s just my response to what’s going on with me, personally. When I think of what is happening on a larger scale in the Church, it really is very hard to make sense of it.



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Jonathan Carpenter

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:07 pm


Mr. Dreher said:
“What grates on me is the shallow, even snide, responses some Catholics here post to genuine questions about the challenges many of us have to live through. That’s what I protest: the denigration of people who are struggling with this crisis, and the denigration of their own experiences and legitimate needs. It won’t do, it won’t do at all.”
You are correct sir. It also will not do to constant focus on the slightest bit of corruption and use this as an excuse to show yourself as nothing but a complete malcontent. Is this clear enough for you and your friend at the DMN (AKA Weekly World News) Mr. Dreher? Perhaps I should spell it out in Creole.



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Christine

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:11 pm


“But that is not the experience of many of us, and I don’t see what’s wrong with saying so, and trying to find a way through this mess.”
Acknowledged and fully affirmed. Maybe it’s my European roots Rod, I don’t know. Both culturally and religiously I automatically think in centuries, not decades. Some of the problems the Church is enduring now were there in the early centuries. St. Paul had to admonish congregations for sexual laxity that in some cases included incest.
Your caller’s assessment may be right on the mark that at the moment American Catholicism is a desert, but as we all know, even deserts can bloom at the right time.
Peace to you, Rod.



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Mark Shea

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:35 pm


Rod:
That what I don’t get. You speak of “the desert that is American Catholicism” and it’s just not something I recognize in my experience. If it’s such a desert, why have I been so richly spiritually nourished there since 1987? How is it that I have found so many resources (and more all the time) that feed my heart, mind and spirit? Why is it that, wherever I go, I run into people who seem to me to be on the way to sainthood? I’m not saying there aren’t big problems. But I just have never experienced American Catholicism as a *desert* where *nothing* whatsoever hold me beyond an abstract doctrinal theory.
That’s why I can’t help but think that we have dramatically different expectations of the Church.



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Rod Dreher

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:41 pm


Well, Mark, you might be right. Or we might have dramatically different experiences of the Church. I hear things from two friends (who don’t know each other) suffering in the same California diocese that makes me think I’m living in Ambrose’s Milan here in Dallas.



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Mark Shea

posted August 13, 2005 at 12:01 am


Rod:
My point is that our experiences can, to a large extent, be determined by our expectations. A friend of mine says, “When a pickpocket looks at the Buddha, all he sees are his pockets.” I would suggest that one possible reason you are experiencing the Church as a desert is because it what you are focusing on.
The test of that, of course, is whether *everybody* in your area experiences the Church as a desert. I’m highly skeptical that this is so. I’m even more skeptical that the majority of New York readers would describe their experience of the Church as a “desert”.
That’s not toeing a party line. It just seems to me to be the rational explanation of why so many people are having trouble relating to your extreme description of the Church. Every Catholic will acknowledge stuff about the Church that drives them nuts. But most people don’t have a relentlessly *horrible* experience of it. If they did, there’s a real mystery about why the Church continues to grow. Masochism is still an aberation, not the norm.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 13, 2005 at 12:27 am


“Masochism is still an aberation, not the norm.”
Maybe it’s just some hip new form of penance that the rest of us haven’t yet heard about.
But seriously, are you going to allow Bishop Grahmann to do to your faith what tyrants could not do to the faith of the martyrs? And I know that your faith is not in jeopardy, but your joy is, and faith without joy is an unstable thing.



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diane

posted August 13, 2005 at 12:51 am


Rod: Do you really think the grass is so much greener in Orthodoxy? You say you are so disillusioned by l’affaire Clark that you’ve nearly lost all faith in Catholicism. But what if you were an Orthodox living in Greece right now? There, the clergy and hierarchs are not only prone to adultery and pederasty but also to drug running and antiquities smuggling.
Things are tough all over. It’s related to this condition called Sin…..
Diane



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diane

posted August 13, 2005 at 1:00 am


And BTW–I understand the average Greek in the pew is really disgusted and disillusioned right now. And it’s complicated by the fact that the GOC is the state church, hand in glove with the government, protected by the state, and even protected by the press. What a mess.
Things really *are* tough all over.
As an erstwhile acquaintance once said to his perpetually questing wife, “If you ever find a ‘perfect’ church, they won’t have you as a member.”
Diane



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diane

posted August 13, 2005 at 1:03 am


Mark Shea: Perhaps Rod might consider starting a blog entitled “Catholic and Loathing It.* ;)
OK, time for bed….
Diane



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HA

posted August 13, 2005 at 6:50 am


Rod:
For much of my life I’ve lived in very liberal areas(theologically and politically) so I can certainly sympathize with feeling alone. There have been plenty of “island” Catholics throughout history – some of the most authentic ones – and it helped my situation to focus on them. Augustine watching Christendom fall apart. St. Francis de Sales starting his ministry in Geneva. Catholics in Siberia and Catholics in the Gulag. Flannery O’Connor, Sigrid Unset, Shushaku Endo – even Waugh’s description of his conversion, and his prophetic despair for what was about to befall the Church in his last years. (I realize some of these had vibrant local communities, but you know what I mean).
More recently, the remaining orthodox Jesuits, as well as their counterparts in other ravaged orders who have to take it from all sides. In fact, perhaps one of those might have the best answers for you, something more satisfying than a proverbial Mr. Shoeless meeting Mr. No-feet situation.
As for the rest of us, I suspect many likewise see themselves as just foot soldiers in a very long war. As such, those who are keenly aware of how bad and hopeless things are shouldn’t be surprised that they get a stiff dose of “buck up” from everyone else in the trench. I realize it can be very maddening to keep hearing that, but telling people to take heart is probably part of the coping regimen.
Finally, it makes sense to ask What Would Jesus Do – given as this thread is all about the fact that it’s all about him. If he were to speak directly, he might well tell you exactly the same thing – just not as glibly.



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HA

posted August 13, 2005 at 6:52 am


…and that there seem to be more such converts to Orthodoxy from Catholicism than to Catholicism from Orthodoxy.
Not to make a big deal out of of numbers, given that they don’t mean much, but I’d be surprised if this were true. Just think about the relative sizes of the two churches and the fact that more people are moving from predominantly Orthodox countries into more predominantly Catholic countries than vice versa.
Is there any data that one can cite that would vouch for the above quote?



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Joe

posted August 13, 2005 at 7:36 am


I am amazed at the number of posts this item has generated so quickly! All very helpful in trying to form a balanced perspective. To Mark Shea, I wanted to observe that while you may indeed be quite correct, also please realize that there may be more to Rod Drehr’s point than simply expectations. After several years in Catholicism, I imagine he has already dumbed down his expectations significantly. Also, numbers do not necessarily indicate vitality. If they did, why would Mass attendance be so low? Not an easy question all round. As I said, all the posts have been helpful in painting a picture.



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John Farrell

posted August 13, 2005 at 7:37 am


My best friend was a lapsed Catholic for years; inner city kid who disliked the Jesuits even as he schooled with them. But when he met his wife, a wonderful Greek Orthodox woman, he went straight to confession and got married in the Orthodox Church.
Myself, I enjoy the liturgy there, but as others here have pointed out, the constant ‘chip on the shoulder’ attitude many OCs have grates after a while. I still chuckle about the “timeline” my friend’s church featured where it says in the 10th century “Rome breaks away.” I used to tease him about it. Yeah right. Saying Rome breaks away from the East is like saying the sun breaks away from the moon. And then there’s the hilarity of hearing Thomas Aquinas referred to as a radical.



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Andrew of the Holy Whapping

posted August 13, 2005 at 7:56 am


We were actually just talking about this in relation to the accusations against Msgr. Clark at the Shrine — http://holywhapping.blogspot.com/2005_08_01_holywhapping_archive.html#112379025444768332
Here



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Kathryn

posted August 13, 2005 at 9:47 am


I am a Pentecostal, married to a Messianic(Formerly Orthodox Jewish) Christian, who has been treading the Tiber for awhile. For now it would seem as if I am swimming back to the Pentecostal shore to catch my breath. Sam Torode’s article articulated my current sentiments perfectly on issues of legalism in the church. Not that we Pentecostals are any stranger to legalism……
I believe that everyone who trusts Christ as God and His atoning death as payment for their sins, and follows His commandments is my brother or sister in the Church. The issue that seems to be missing here, is the issue of faith.
Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Faith without works is dead, so Jesus said that we are to follow His commandments if we love Him. That is the outward working of faith.
Jesus Christ profoundly changed my life in 1983. I passed from death into life, from spiritual darkness into the grace and peace of God. His revealed Presence became a reality to me, and if it weren’t for that. I’d be lost in Hell right now.
People are wallowing is spiritual wickedness in this world and it seems a shame when we spend so much time straining at gnats and swallowing camels. I long to see the day when the Church is united and that we really make a difference in this world.
I don’t say this to be critical of any of you. I pray God’s richest blessings on all of you and I have enjoyed reading all of your responses to the article.
You have challeneged me and given me a lot of cud to chew.
And Fr. Shawn, I am in Western NC and I hate to hear about the schisms between the Orthodox and Catholics. I have very close friends who are Catholic and I have gleaned so much spiritual richness from them and thank God for them.
Shalom.



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David Reuter

posted August 13, 2005 at 11:21 am


” It is simply wrong to tell people who are having a hell of a time trying to make sense of all this and hang on despite it all that they just need to buck up and say another rosary. Or whatever. It amounts to saying, “Just get over it.” What happens when you’ve been telling yourself to get over it for years, and it hasn’t been gotten over?”
Rod, ‘What happens’ depends entirely on how you approach your dilemma. As a counselor, I have encountered this question in a hundred different forms. When faced with a problem, or suffering that has no remedy people often get stuck, depressed, feel hopeless, often angry, and will resist any suggestions that others have to offer. “You can’t help me..”, “You don’t understand…”, “You don’t know how bad it is…”, etc.
Empathy is helpful but only goes so far–and it is obvious that empathy is not sufficient to relieve your suffering or change your circumstances. Many empathize with you; but your suffering, your perceptions, and your situation persists. Now what? You are understood, but you may still be depressed, feel hopeless, angry and stuck. What to do?
You have two major options:
1.) Stay stuck, hopeless, angry, and depressed and continue to complain about how miserable your situation is. Resist all suggestions, scriptural admonitons, positive examples, and reframes, and castigate those who offer them.
2.) Realize that you have a responsibility to persevere in the face of your situation and “learn” how to make the best of it. Realize that your situation is not unique and that you are not alone. Listen to your brothers and sisters who are finding constructive ways to endure, and even thrive in the “so-called” desert. Live pertinent scriptures such as: Sirach 2 “Accept whatever befalls you. In crushing misfortune be patient, for in fire gold is tested and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation.”
Give up complaining–it doesn’t help. And yes, buck up! Choose to suffer well! No need to “get over it” but “get on with it” in spite of it. It is truly a waste of your time and talent. The Church needs men who see things clearly but are not overcome by what they see…



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted August 13, 2005 at 1:02 pm


To those of you who question and complain about Rod, understand this:
Rod Dreher is an honest man who values truth and thinks for himself. He doesn’t value denominational or theological identity for its own sake (unlike many of you). He also actually feels for others’ pain (unlike many of you). That’s why the clerical sex abuse crisis is so traumatizing for him. He notices the fundamental disconnetion between what responsible (or supposedly responsible) church leaders say and what they do (or don’t do). He sees how they’re more than willing to throw the innocent under the bus to protect themselves. And he’s supposed to ignore this?
Some of you are so proud of your Catholic identity — indeed worship it as God — that you have no idea that a true prophet is in your midst. Read about Jeremiah, David Reuter, then tell me whether that “weeping prophet” was supposed to stop weeping at the sight of Israel’s betrayal. Then tell me whether there’s any difference between Israel’s betrayal and the Catholic Establishment’s betrayal.
There’s an old joke. A married man who is having a clandestine affair with another woman is walking with her when he suddenly meets his wife, who says, “I can’t believe my eyes!” The man responds, “Who are you going to believe, honey, me or your eyes?”
The wife is Rod Dreher. The married man is the Catholic Establishment. The “other woman” is the lust for power and position.
Or, to put it another way, you all are the married man, and the “other woman” is your infatuation with Catholic Identity for its own sake. The wife is Christ.
OK, everybody, flame on, especially you, Mark. Just remember one thing:
Someday, Mark, God’s going to ask you for a bill for all this, and you’re going to realize that you don’t have nearly enough money to pay it. He’ll then put you in a debtors’ prison from which there’s no escape.
Think about that, Mark. Think about it seriously the next time you want to give vent to your pervasive jealously and defensiveness.



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Christine

posted August 13, 2005 at 1:52 pm


Dorothy Day is truly one of my models for someone whose conversion to Catholicism has proven to be a wonderful example for us all. She had absolutely no illusions about the shenanigans that the hierarchy sometimes fostered but embarked upon a life of service to God and her fellow man nourished by her deep belief in the Eucharist, prayer and practice of traditional Catholic devotions.
I suspect were she still among as she would be the first to call some of the clergy to repentance while never wavering in her belief that Christ will continue to guide and cleanse the Church.
By the way, Mark, please let us know when your book on Mary is released. I definitely want to buy at least two copies!!



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reluctant penitent

posted August 13, 2005 at 2:28 pm


Mr. Hippolito says:
“Someday, Mark, God’s going to ask you for a bill for all this, and you’re going to realize that you don’t have nearly enough money to pay it. He’ll then put you in a debtors’ prison from which there’s no escape.”
Are you saying this because he’s Catholic and because members of your denomination believe that all Catholics go to Hell? Just wondering.



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susan

posted August 13, 2005 at 2:28 pm


I agree in keeping the focus of our lives on Jesus. As a new Catholic I still can’t get over the devotion to Mary. I have done a lot of reading and see where the devotion is coming from, but I still don’t get it. I don’t pray the rosary or when I hear people talk about praying to Mary to intercede for them I still have this little evangelical voice in my head saying ‘This is soo wrong’. Help me in my unbelief! I plan on getting Mark’s book also.



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Glenn Juday

posted August 13, 2005 at 4:10 pm


We all have our own, individual crosses to bear. This is not just a cliché, it is an unfortunate, mysterious, and inescapable reality. Some suffering that is intensified and abrades the spot in our personally incarnated selves that is the most sensitive. I know what mine is. The panoply of sin, folly, self-interest, and rebellion against God that is in the Church today and always has been in Church is, for some particular souls, precisely that cross.
All I can offer is some things that help me overcome, or to transcend the worst effects of the cross I have to bear. Because it is a deeply spiritual mystery, the solution is very much in God’s hands. I can cooperate with His plan that permitted this suffering, or I can try to produce a better plan than God is able to. Faith is the former.
When I am feeling close to overwhelmed, I sometimes ask God “Lord, I don’t understand this. I don’t understand why you are permitting this to happen. Lord, all I want to do is please you. I know in justice and perfection you have no need to pay any attention to my request. But Lord, I know you care, I have faith in you. If you would, please show me what to do, and I will do that. If it is my natural inclination, please let me know that I am not putting my own desires ahead of yours. If it is contrary to my natural inclination, Lord, please let me know and give me your strength to do what you wish in the way that you wish me to.”
Speaking personally, it helps me to go to confession, receive the sacraments, and read scripture frequently. The reception gets better that way. And I have to persist beyond that initial feeling of upset and urgency.
And when I get a clear answer, I have to believe it, and act on it, and never second guess it.



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nihil obstat

posted August 13, 2005 at 5:42 pm


“Your reasoning is as sound as your spelling and grammar. As usual.” – Rod Dreher
Thanks for the chuckle, Mr. Dreher. Since you can’t correct an error once you’ve posted a comment, it hardly destroys a person’s argument when there is a boo-boo or two. I can assure you, that if you had a blog, you would not have escaped my scrutiny.
I’m gonna have to side with Mr. Dreher over Mr. Shea in the matter of desert, oasis, etc., I’m going to disappoint Mr. Shea yet again. Catholics are in no way evenly distributed throughout the U.S., so the fact that you can find a diocese here or there that would satisfy both of you is meaningless. The vast majority of Catholics in this country are attending Masses in parishes where orthodoxy and rubrics are both taking serious hits.



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Christine

posted August 13, 2005 at 6:19 pm


Susan,
Welcome! Regarding Mary, give it time. As a new Catholic it may take a while for you to grasp the tremendous importance that the Incarnation has in Catholic thinking. Contemplating the immense mystery of God taking on human flesh is something that has been done for centuries. Once that becomes clearer, then the place of Mary in Catholic devotion will make much more sense.
As a convert myself I understand completely where you are at. You may find that somewhere down the road the prayers of the Rosary will reveal themselves to you as a beautiful compendium of the Gospels. As Pope John Paul always put it so well, the Rosary is simply contemplating with face of Christ with Mary, the first disciple of Jesus.
All the best to you in your life as a Catholic Christian.



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Christine

posted August 13, 2005 at 6:25 pm


Contemplating with face????? Let me untwist my brain and try that again — contemplating THE face of Christ with Mary.
There. That feels much better!!



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HA

posted August 13, 2005 at 7:02 pm


Joseph:
just because someone has dedicated him or herself to fighting it out from the inside doesn’t mean we can’t tolerate criticism.
Elijah is one of the rare Old Testament saints who regularly gets churches dedicated to him, and as far as hurling invective goes, he could slug it out with the best of them. Catherine of Siena could use language that was right up your alley when addressing a pope, and (despite being a woman and a layperson in the sexually enlightened 14th century) she’s a doctor of the church. There’s more than one clergyman in Dante’s Inferno, even the papacy is represented, and he’s hardly been ignored.
If you want to be a reformer, have at it (we could use plenty), but learn from your betters. When Elijah thought things were bad enough to where he wanted to just die, he didn’t get anything in the way of sympathy – just an angel saying to eat up because he had a long, long haul ahead of him. If that was good enough for Elijah, it ought to be good enough for the rest of us.
As for you, you’re going to have to make your arguments more convincing, as opposed to assuming that your audience’s obtuseness or desire to turn their churches into a kind of idol is what makes people suspect you’re a troll. And with regard to assuming that Mark goes at you or Rod out of jealousy or insecurity – like I said, you’ll have to be more convincing. Comedy is definitely not your strong suit.



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patrick in ny

posted August 13, 2005 at 7:12 pm


That is one great post David Reuter! you have expressed what has been running around my head.
there is so much complaining, whining and anger at times that we need a wake up call. and it seems like blogs are almost impossible to read without catching this negative spirit.
anyone who has been around the block knows that the church (Institutional level) will not change all that much, but we can change how we realte to it.
your post is one of the most positive and practical i have read in a long time. thank you.
in regards to the liturgy, no matter how poor it maybe or how poorly i attend it…..i always try to pray with sincerity the prayer the priest recites after the Our Father… ” look not on our sins, but on the faith of your church”. amen



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chris K

posted August 13, 2005 at 7:59 pm


“It’s all about Jesus” and “Jesus is enough” can really be distances apart. In the sense that we’ve been using this personal conclusion about what is necessary, it appears to radiate mainly from an ego’s satisfaction. Certainly the confines of the author’s definition of Jesus suits those who may have similar experiences, or emotional satisfaction, or sacred type education. Yet, in one’s life journey, if one is honest with the honesty of humility, one has to admit the ladder one climbs to discover just Who this Jesus is comes mostly through enlightenment…through gifts by Him, Himself…graces. Otherwise it remains stilted in some horizontal appreciation rather than the vertical that can leave one in a dark night as Mother Theresa experienced. Did she know “Jesus” in this same simple “Jesus is enough” definition that I sense the author intended? What are the easiest channels of that grace by which He helps us discover and enter the Mystery? Well, by His own intention, the sacraments which He established. If it is His own will that He be drawn to ourselves by the means He left us, then we can’t say we truly love Him or benefit by His Love, or even experience Him, if we don’t seek His will and what He intended His Church to include. When we, perhaps unfortunately to many, discover some quite trying and ugly requirement in this journey towards Him, does that “Jesus is enough” platitude accompanied by wonderful comforts, become an idol in itself, an easy way out? So,”Jesus is enough” may be fine subjectively speaking,in some particular moment with no confusion or trials, but down the road this Jesus becomes a challenge and a greater mystery with perhaps even replays of the rich man or some other who just can’t leave his own attachments (even to his image of Jesus) for the great risk that loving the “real” Jesus demands. So, if “Jesus is enough”, then this Jesus must include His will…not ours…for how He intended that we all be one as He and His Father were.



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Peggy

posted August 13, 2005 at 9:01 pm


While it may not be as the author intends, it may not be necessarily wrong to say that “catholic is not enough, sacraments are not enough, etc..” because being Catholic and participating in the sacraments, going through the motions without love of Jesus is not enough. They are “necessary, but not sufficient” conditions. Now, because the author says “only Jesus is sufficient.” I suppose he’s saying, just have faith and to heck with liturgy and sacraments and the Catholic faith. I’d not agree with that as so many others here do not. Jesus is fully “necessary, but not sufficient.” Otherwise, it would not mean anytyhing to be Catholic rather than any variety of protestant.
As far as fellowship concerns raised here, I agree it’s not my primary objective in my parish. Further, a good friend hit me with this saying once: “Create the fellowship you crave.” That is, if you’re lonely and feeling isolated, get off your duff and reach out to others, make friends. The problem of feeling isolated generally does not solve itself without action on our part.



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diane

posted August 14, 2005 at 12:34 am


John Farrell wrote: Myself, I enjoy the liturgy [in EOxy], but as others here have pointed out, the constant ‘chip on the shoulder’ attitude many OCs have grates after a while. I still chuckle about the “timeline” my friend’s church featured where it says in the 10th century “Rome breaks away.” I used to tease him about it. Yeah right. Saying Rome breaks away from the East is like saying the sun breaks away from the moon. And then there’s the hilarity of hearing Thomas Aquinas referred to as a radical.
LOL! And don’t forget that arch-heretic Saint Augustine. The West went off the rails with St. Augustine, ‘member? Or was it with the Evil Franks and Gregory VII? I can never keep those Great Apostasy timelines synchronized. :)
And, hey, if you think Orthodox anti-Westernism and anti-Catholicism are fun, check out contemporary Orthodox anti-semitism. Now that’s a real barrel of laughs. :p
Yep, the grass is greener east of the Bosphorus all right. NOT.
Not trying to take pot-shots here; just trying to put all this “Catholic Desert vs. Orthodox Paradise” stuff into some perspective.
Blessings,
Diane



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Therese

posted August 14, 2005 at 9:49 am


Eucharist IS the Jesus who alone is enough!



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John E

posted August 14, 2005 at 11:41 am


I still chuckle about the “timeline” my friend’s church featured where it says in the 10th century “Rome breaks away.” I used to tease him about it. Yeah right. Saying Rome breaks away from the East is like saying the sun breaks away from the moon.
You might want to pause in your chuckling long enough to think about what the Christian West was like in, say, the ninth or tenth century, compared to the Christian East. Which would have seemed like “the sun,” and which “the moon?”



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Larry

posted August 14, 2005 at 1:39 pm


Jesus is necessary AND sufficient.



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Liam

posted August 14, 2005 at 1:58 pm


Yeah, 10th century ROme was soooo sunny….



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Larry

posted August 14, 2005 at 2:24 pm


Just above (at 1:39 PM) I posted “Jesus is necessary AND sufficient”. I certainly believe that. My brief post was intended to counter a statement that Peggy made in her post at 9:01 PM last night, to the effect that Jesus was necessary but not sufficient.
But even in the few minutes that have passed since my 1:39 post, I feel like it’s important to not come across like I’m hurling barbs or trying to score points, at Peggy’s expense or anyone’s expense. Peggy might well have been saying something I do not disagree with.
Jesus IS sufficient. But one is faced with a question of APPROACH to Jesus, an approach that enriches and fulfills. I’ve thought about this issue in the last 36 hours or so, and one thing I realized is that for a lot of people, myself included, a certain type of minimalist, “bare cognitive apprehension” of Jesus might not bring about a state of spiritual uplift. I think we have been given a number of channels of approach to Jesus through which we can comprehend Him and feel His presence in a more effective and lasting way than just thinking “Jesus”.
Among these channels would be the sacramental and liturgical life (a more Catholic/Orthodox) approach, Christian fellowship (a more Prostestant approach) and kenotic service (which is a universal approach).
God, knowing the human mind and human psychology in an incarnate Creation, created helps and mechanisms through which the great mass of us who are not spiritual giants can approach Him and His Son. The use of these channels does not negate our ultimate loyalty to the Object of the channels.



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Larry

posted August 14, 2005 at 2:32 pm


And Prayer. The best channel. “Duh”. But, sadly, that’s a weak area for me. Not sure why.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 14, 2005 at 2:41 pm


I’m familiar with the scriptural basis for the sacraments. What is the scriptural basis for rejecting the sacraments instituted by Christ in favor of ‘fellowship’ or ‘kenotic service’? If God estblished these ‘paths’ shoudn’t He have indicated it to us somehow?



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John Farrell

posted August 14, 2005 at 4:26 pm


You might want to pause in your chuckling long enough to think about what the Christian West was like in, say, the ninth or tenth century, compared to the Christian East. Which would have seemed like “the sun,” and which “the moon?”
That’s rather the point, isn’t it? What the Church in the West has become since then…and what the Church in the East hasn’t. How ossified theology in the East has remained, as the Church in the West, literally present at the creation of the barbaric nations which became modern Europe, grew and evolved with them, helping shape their languages, their faith, their identities.
The East has never had an Augustine. It’s never had an Aquinas. It is too intellectually timid, to its everlasting shame, in my opinion. Even Vladimir Sloviev, who might have been considered a great Eastern philsopher, converted to Rome.



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Fr. John Whiteford

posted August 14, 2005 at 5:07 pm


John Farrell wrote:
“That’s rather the point, isn’t it? What the Church in the West has become since then…and what the Church in the East hasn’t.”
Me: Yes… the Church in the west has become a rotten corpse, and the East hasn’t. You are debating whether Christ really rose from the dead, and whether or not homosexuality is a sin. Most of western Europe has ceased to be Christian, by any historic definition.
JF: “How ossified theology in the East has remained, as the Church in the West, literally present at the creation of the barbaric nations which became modern Europe, grew and evolved with them, helping shape their languages, their faith, their identities.”
Me: Orthodox theology is not ossified… we just don’t make stuff up.
JF: “The East has never had an Augustine. It’s never had an Aquinas. It is too intellectually timid, to its everlasting shame, in my opinion. Even Vladimir Sloviev, who might have been considered a great Eastern philsopher, converted to Rome.”
Me: Have you ever heard of St. Athanasius the Great? Ever heard of St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Theologian? St. Augustine was a pious man, and prolific writer, but as a theologian he never came close to these fathers.
As for more recent examples, St. Gregory Palamas, and St. Symeon the New Theologian were hardly light weights, or men who simply unthinkingly recited what previous Fathers had to say. More recently than that, we have Fr. Georges Florovsky, and Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos… and we are not debating whether homosexuality is a sin, or whether Christ really rose from the dead.
And by the way, Soloviev was a Kabbalist, Mason, and a Rosicrucian… you are welcome to claim him for your own. If that’s what it takes to not be ossified, then call me a stone.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 14, 2005 at 7:30 pm


“You are debating whether Christ really rose from the dead, and whether or not homosexuality is a sin.”
I seemed to have missed this Papal Encyclical. Was this hidden somewhere in the Theology of the Body?
“Orthodox theology is not ossified… we just don’t make stuff up.”
“Most of western Europe has ceased to be Christian, by any historic definition.”
Judging from your name, you live in the West too. I guess you must not be Christian.
Orthodoxy is pretty good at persecuting Catholics and Protestants but it isn’t really contributing very much to the major battles that Christianity is fighting against the secular culture these days.
This is a profoundly ignorant claim. If the Catholic Church is ‘making stuff up’ then so did all of the Church Fathers whom you cite.
Citing St. Athanasius and other Fathers as something that ‘balances’ St. Augustine is also quite silly since the Fathers are also theologians of the Catholic Church. Thus, in addition to the Greek Fathers the Church has had St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. And if you want to do Yoga, I suppose Palamas might be your cup of tea.



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Liam

posted August 14, 2005 at 7:35 pm


John
How much Eastern theology have you read to conclude — contrary to even our own Church’s assessment of the present value of Eastern theology — that? That’s a pretty vast ocean (including the 2d Millennium) to be so dismissive of.
PS to everyone: the Byzantine family of churches are not the only Eastern churches. There remains another dimension in the Oriental Churches, with whom Rome has had much productive ecumenical dialogue.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 14, 2005 at 7:46 pm


Liam,
It’s simply a fact about the Orthodox Church that it has long ago ceased to be capable of having Church councils that address new challenges to Christianity. That’s why the multiple Orthodox Churches have to ‘wing it’ when it comes to many issues, contraception being one example. There is no uniform Orthodox teaching on contraception.



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Fr. John Whiteford

posted August 14, 2005 at 9:58 pm


“Reluctant penitent” wrote: “I seemed to have missed this Papal Encyclical. Was this hidden somewhere in the Theology of the Body?”
Me: We were speaking of the western Church, which includes many daughters of Rome, who are in worse shape then Rome… but not by much. You can say that issues like Homosexuality are not debated in the RC Church, but it is. You have many official institutions spouting heresy, even by RC standards. You have seminaries that have been taken over by homosexuals, which is why you have such a massive problem with pedophile priests. You discourage heterosexuals from become priests by forbidding them to marry… and those that are willing to deal with that, aren’t willing to deal with the homosexual culture of your seminaries.
RP: “Judging from your name, you live in the West too. I guess you must not be Christian.”
Me: I was speaking of western Europe, and used the word “most”. I do not live in western Europe, and I did not use the word “all”.
RP: “Orthodoxy is pretty good at persecuting Catholics and Protestants but it isn’t really contributing very much to the major battles that Christianity is fighting against the secular culture these days.”
Me: You belong to the Church of the inquisition, and the forced Unia, and you speak of persecution?
RP: “This is a profoundly ignorant claim. If the Catholic Church is ‘making stuff up’ then so did all of the Church Fathers whom you cite.”
Me: The Fathers of the Church created no new dogmas. They defined dogmas already part of the faith once delivered unto the saints. Your notion of the dogmatic development goes far beyond that.
RP: “Citing St. Athanasius and other Fathers as something that ‘balances’ St. Augustine is also quite silly since the Fathers are also theologians of the Catholic Church. Thus, in addition to the Greek Fathers the Church has had St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. And if you want to do Yoga, I suppose Palamas might be your cup of tea.”
Me: I mentioned Fathers of the eastern Church, who were far superior to St. Augustine. St. Augustine is also part of the Orthodox Catholic Church. As for Yoga, your last Pope officially endorsed inter-religious “dialogue” in which your monks are sent to Buddhist monasteries to have a “spiritual dialogue” with them, and learn how to meditate from them. Buddhists brag about this fact. And in fact, your Pope handed over your Churches for Buddhists to use, and set their idols on your altars. This is something that no Christian in the first millenium could have ever imagined a “Bishop” doing.
See:
http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/video2.aspx
St. Gregory Palamas was simply a defender of the authentic Christian monastic tradition… a tradition that the RC Church has long since forgotten. Now you have butch nuns running around in business suits, and calling themselves monastics. That’s the reality of the RC Church today; not the Bing Crosby fantasy you think you still live in.



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Fr. John Whiteford

posted August 14, 2005 at 10:00 pm


RP: “It’s simply a fact about the Orthodox Church that it has long ago ceased to be capable of having Church councils that address new challenges to Christianity.”
Nonsense. See this document from the All-Russian Sobor of 2000:
http://www.russian-orthodox-church.org.ru/sd00e.htm



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reluctant penitent

posted August 14, 2005 at 10:54 pm


JW: ‘Nonsense. See this document from the All-Russian Sobor of 2000′
The All-Russian Sobor does not define doctrine for the Orthodox Church. There is no unified answer to questions such as ‘Is contraception permissible?’
JW: “You can say that issues like Homosexuality are not debated in the RC Church, but it is.”
The Magisterium of the Catholic Church is clear on the issue of homosexuality, with sound reasoning based on scripture, tradition and natural law. Anyone who wishes to know what the Church teaches can just read the Catechism. It’s true that, unlike the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church encourages the education of its clergy and laity, so that there is a long tradition of Catholic Universities at which issues are freely discussed and people are permitted to question the teaching of the Church. But the teaching of the Church is clear.
JW: ‘St. Gregory Palamas was simply a defender of the authentic Christian monastic tradition… a tradition that the RC Church has long since forgotten. Now you have butch nuns running around in business suits, and calling themselves monastics.’
Anyone who claims that Catholicism has forgotten its monastic tradition is simply speaking from ignorance. The ‘butch nuns’ are not contemplative orders but active orders. If ‘butch nuns’ is the level of discourse of the average Orthodox priest the Orthodox Churches are in bigger trouble than I suspected. I’ve met only a few nuns who wear civilian clothing, and every one would put you tto shame when it comes to living an authentically Christian life.
‘St. Gregory Palamas was simply a defender of the authentic Christian monastic tradition”
Not really. He taught that you can see god by controlling your breating and looking at your navel. Sounds like Yoga to me. JPII talked to Hindus but, unlike Palamas, he did not integrate Hinduism into the practices of the Church.
JW: ‘the forced Unia’
Let’s ask some Uniate Christians whether Catholics or Orthodox have given them more grief. I’ve known quite a few and you would not like to hear what they have to say about the Russian Orthodox Church.
JW: ‘the Church of the inquisition’
That you have to go back to the Inquisition–which, by the way, did not impact Orthodoxy–in order to find an analogue for the religious persecution caused by Orthodoxy today is quite telling.
JW: ‘I do not live in western Europe, and I did not use the word “all”‘
So Russia is more Christian than Western Europe? Just check out the abortion rates and you’ll see how authentically Christian Russia is today. I don’t know where these authentically Christian Orthodox countries are. Is Byelorussia one? The Ukraine? In what sense are these countries more Christian than, say, Italy or Poland?
JW: ‘Bing Crosby fantasy you think you still live in’
I do quite like Bing Crosby. But I would not agree that he enters my fantasy life in any real way. You might be overdoing it with the Palamite breathing exercises.



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Kath

posted August 14, 2005 at 11:50 pm


When I first converted 8 years ago I had very high expectations for myself and for my fellow Catholics. I have been painfully disappointed in both. One thing I know after 8 years is this: it is not easy to be a practicing Catholic, and I suspect it never has been. Being Catholic is gloriously challenging and fulfilling and extraordinarily difficult and painful. But, still, whenever I have been asked why I became Catholic, my response has always been and still is, “Because it’s true.”
No matter how upset I may become at my own failings, no matter how horrendous the scandal, how ugly a church’s architecture or insipid the homily, this is still the only Church Jesus Christ founded. And since Jesus is all sufficient, I remain in that Church.
I have found much to admire in the Orthodox and Protestant communities I am personally acquainted with and a few things that are not so admirable. For no matter what church I join, I will eventually find the same sins in one form or another being committed there that are being committed in the Catholic Church. I would also find inhospitable congregations, ugliness, ignorance and stupidity, but I will not find the Eucharist or the teaching authority Jesus granted to the Catholic Church. In the end, I trust that Jesus meant what He said when He told Peter upon what He would build His Church and gave Peter the care of His flock.



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted August 15, 2005 at 12:38 am


Are you saying this because he’s Catholic and because members of your denomination believe that all Catholics go to Hell? Just wondering.
RP (and HA), Mark knows what I’m talking about. He also knows that it has nothing to do with his Catholic identity, nor with his opinions of Rod’s views on the Church. If he were Protestant, Jewish, atheist or anything else, he’d behave the same way.
More’s the pity.
I have done a lot of reading and see where the devotion is coming from, but I still don’t get it.
Susan, as you know, devotion to Mary is a secondary aspect of Catholic spirituality. Nobody is saying that you have to pray the Rosary, or even believe in the Church-approved apparitions (as opposed to the non-approved ones, like Medjugorie) to be a sound Catholic. Believing in the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, which are considered infallible teaching, is something else. Then again, since you sound like an intelligent person, you obviously evalutated the evidence for yourself and decided to believe, as well. Blessings to you on your quest!



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reluctant penitent

posted August 15, 2005 at 12:49 am


“RP (and HA), Mark knows what I’m talking about.”
Mr. angry angry Hippo! Someone please call the man an exorcist!



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Fr. John Whiteford

posted August 15, 2005 at 7:09 am


RP: “The All-Russian Sobor does not define doctrine for the Orthodox Church. There is no unified answer to questions such as ‘Is contraception permissible?'”
Me: Prior to Nicea, the Early Church only had local councils. However, over time, certain local councils received Ecumenical acceptance. The Russian Church alone represents a majority of the Orthodox, and this council has been very favorably received. Orthodox people outside of Russia are looking to what that Council determined on moral and ethical issues. I don’t believe I have seen any writer in the Church disagree with what they came up with on the issues they address in that document. As for uniformity. Since you have a Pope decreeing unilaterally what the policy of your Church is, you have a uniform policy. Wuppty-do. You certainly don’t have uniformity in actual practice. If you only counted Catholics who actually care what the Pope says on contraception as real Catholics, your numbers would probably be fewer than the Mormons.
RP: “The Magisterium of the Catholic Church is clear on the issue of homosexuality, with sound reasoning based on scripture, tradition and natural law. Anyone who wishes to know what the Church teaches can just read the Catechism. It’s true that, unlike the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church encourages the education of its clergy and laity, so that there is a long tradition of Catholic Universities at which issues are freely discussed and people are permitted to question the teaching of the Church. But the teaching of the Church is clear.”
Me: You don’t have a long tradition of encouraging questioning of Church authority at your educational institutions. That is all post Vatican II… however, what you have now, is open rebellion in these institutions, not just free discussions.
RP: “Anyone who claims that Catholicism has forgotten its monastic tradition is simply speaking from ignorance. The ‘butch nuns’ are not contemplative orders but active orders. If ‘butch nuns’ is the level of discourse of the average Orthodox priest the Orthodox Churches are in bigger trouble than I suspected. I’ve met only a few nuns who wear civilian clothing, and every one would put you tto shame when it comes to living an authentically Christian life.”
Me: Don’t try to white wash the level that monasticism in your Church has fallen to. The idead that you could call yourself a monastic, and yet run around like a CEO, dressed in business attire, is totally foreign to any historic understanding of monasticism. The fact that your Church tolerates this shows that they have indeed lost their understanding of monasticism. I have also heard such nuns talk about their definition of “chastity”, and it sounds like they’ve lost it there too.
It is also a fact… which I provided you with references, but which you have not addressed, that the Vatican has been encouraging “spiritual dialogues” with Buddhism, in which your monastics go to Buddhist monasteries, and are taught Buddhist meditation. How is that even remotely faithful to Christianty? That is apostasy.
You may indeed know some RC monastics that would put me to shame as a Christian, but if they do, it is because they are ignoring where your Church has been heading for the past 50 years, and are striving to be authentically Christian despite those trends.
RP: “Not really. He taught that you can see god by controlling your breating and looking at your navel. Sounds like Yoga to me. JPII talked to Hindus but, unlike Palamas, he did not integrate Hinduism into the practices of the Church.”
Me: You understanding of hesychasm is not even close to the reality. St. Gregory Palamas, like all Christian ascetics, taught that man is both body and spirit, and that both aspects of man have to be brought into submission to Christ. There is a physical aspect to prayer, but unlike hinduism, hesychasm does not try to blank the mind, in order to free the spirit. Hesychasm has as its goal unceasing prayer. The hesychast uses physical disciplines in order to better focus on prayer, and ultimately to commune with God.
The Vatican, on the other hand, is sending your monastics to actually learn Buddhist meditation techniques. That is indeed incorporating such practices into the Church.
RP: “Let’s ask some Uniate Christians whether Catholics or Orthodox have given them more grief. I’ve known quite a few and you would not like to hear what they have to say about the Russian Orthodox Church.”
Me: Even during the Soviet period, when the KGB wished to call someone a low down snake in the grass, they called them a “Isuit” (i.e. a “Jesuit”). I don’t really care much what your uniate friends may think of the Russian Orthodox Church today. Their ancestors were brought under Rome by hook or by crook.
http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/vatican_russia.aspx
RP: “That you have to go back to the Inquisition–which, by the way, did not impact Orthodoxy–in order to find an analogue for the religious persecution caused by Orthodoxy today is quite telling.”
Me: I didn’t say “The Spanish Inquisition”. The Inquisition is not ancient history.
See http://www.pavelicpapers.com/features/essays/psg.html
RP: “So Russia is more Christian than Western Europe? Just check out the abortion rates and you’ll see how authentically Christian Russia is today. I don’t know where these authentically Christian Orthodox countries are. Is Byelorussia one? The Ukraine? In what sense are these countries more Christian than, say, Italy or Poland?”
Me: Russia became a secularized country at the point of a gun. Millions were martyred. Today the Church is growing rapidly, Church attendance is increasing, and it already has surpassed the dismall attendance rates in most of western Europe. This is more so the case in the Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria, and has long been the case in Greece. France was a RC country… would you call it a Christian nation by any stretch today? The Greek Constitution begins with the words “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The French opposed even mentioning a Christian heritage of Europe in the EU Constitution.



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michigancatholic

posted August 15, 2005 at 7:53 am


Heironymous,
You hit the nail on the head with your 11:52 post.
Emotions don’t get one far — sacrificial love for Christ is necessary but not sufficient; the intermediacy of the Catholic Church (in some manner) is necessary but not sufficient. It takes both.
Anyone here read Dominus Iesus? This matter has already been written on by the Holy See. There is nothing controversial here and all has already been covered by that document.



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Christine

posted August 15, 2005 at 8:25 am


“Me: Have you ever heard of St. Athanasius the Great? Ever heard of St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Theologian?”
Yes, Father, and this Latin Christian humbly acknowledges the great debt that the West owes to these magnificent defenders of the faith. I ask for their intercession often in these turbulent times.



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Christine

posted August 15, 2005 at 8:34 am


“and because members of your denomination believe that all Catholics go to Hell? Just wondering.”
Ah, but here’s the mystery, RP!! Does Joseph D’ still consider himself a Catholic with evangelical leanings or is he now an evangelical called to reform us poor befuddled Romans?



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michigancatholic

posted August 15, 2005 at 8:57 am


I don’t always agree with Rod, but I have to say that the experience of American Catholicism is a desert for many Catholics.. Sure, some people have found parishes in which they feel at home–the lucky exception–but many drift along without commitment, with only glimpses of the meaning that should come from being Catholic.
I think that in some ways, it’s part of the conflict between the culture and the church which holds us back…our ideas that everything has to be distilled down to the most essential parts in the name of efficiency or some modern ideal. Sort of like the dissection of a meal into parts which can be plugged in to a formula to get dinner. In a word, reductionism.
In some cases, it’s because Catholics tend to, and are encouraged to, treat their faith as a hobby, something to do on Sunday morning to mark another week of work done. There’s this terrible fear of piety that goes on. So, we drift from one Sunday to the next, each one no deeper than the last, all the time wondering what’s wrong, or perhaps even expecting no more because we don’t think it’s possible.
I might mention here, the creation or appreciation of true beauty is nearly impossible, under these conditions. It’s completely stultifying all the way around.
Some get into “lay ministry,” thinking perhaps that will help the feeling there’s a void, but without a robust idea of the Church as the Bride of Christ, they simply end up promoting the status quo. Still, for many, promoting the status quo from the other side gives authority, of a sort, and finally activity, which satisfies partially. People stuck in this mode can be really obnoxious, as you might well imagine. But it strikes a certain sort that they are in “community” and it becomes all about “community” for them.
I really don’t know how this ought to be remedied. Perhaps time and tribulations will bring about a better situation. Perhaps when this generation dies and the new generation finds an appropriate and Catholic interpretation for V2, it will happen. I don’t know.
The new ecclesial foundations help some, largely because they have a more robust and inclusive view of the Church–it’s what they seem to have in common. Church as mother and bride. Also, most of them are very Marian. Still, they don’t reach down into most parishes…..



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Peggy

posted August 15, 2005 at 9:03 am


Larry,
I haven’t been online in a couple of days. I appreciate your further thoughts. I was not entirely sure if I was correct in saying Jesus alone is necessary, but not sufficient. To say that Jesus alone is sufficient as protestants/evangelicals may believe would seem to say we don’t need the tools/vehicles (whatever you want to call them) of the Catholic faith and her sacraments to become closer to Him. No intermediaries.
Yet, on the other hand, as some one else pointed out, Jesus and the Blessed Sacrament is the very center of our faith. What more could we need? Well, we need our Catholic belief about the Blessed Sacrament being the Flesh & Blood of Christ. We need the Catholic liturgy to re-present His sacrifice at each Mass. We need the Catholic sacrament of Holy Communion to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. So, that’s what I was thinking about when I made the statements I did. Yes, Jesus in the Catholic context is necessary and sufficient.



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Christine

posted August 15, 2005 at 9:36 am


Kath,
A hearty amen from a fellow convert. I too sometimes great frustrated but it’s almost ten years since I converted and I don’t regret it. There’s simply too much richness in Catholic Christianity, even if it sometimes becomes tarnished and has to be polished up again.



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Christine

posted August 15, 2005 at 9:38 am


Um, make that “get” frustrated (especially at my keyboard which insists on spelling words according to its own preferences!)



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reluctant penitent

posted August 15, 2005 at 11:22 am


JW: ‘Don’t try to white wash the level that monasticism in your Church has fallen to. The idead that you could call yourself a monastic, and yet run around like a CEO, dressed in business attire, is totally foreign to any historic understanding of monasticism. The fact that your Church tolerates this shows that they have indeed lost their understanding of monasticism. I have also heard such nuns talk about their definition of “chastity”, and it sounds like they’ve lost it there too.’
The nuns dressed in civilian clothing are not monastic orders–they are orders whose charism is an active life, e.g. of education. The Catholic Monastic orders–e.g., Benedictines, Trappists, etc.–are alive and well, and I would not be surprised if the number of Catholics in monastic life were not higher than the number of Orthodox, though I have not looked at the numbers. If ignorant statements such as yours are indicative of the level of education of the average Orthodox priest, Orthodoxy is in bigger trouble than I suspected.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 15, 2005 at 12:26 pm


JW: ‘You don’t have a long tradition of encouraging questioning of Church authority at your educational institutions. That is all post Vatican II…’
Not matters of authority–theological matters. Disputation about theological matters has gone on in Catholic Universities since the Middle Ages. In fact, classes were organized around objections and replies to objections. Theology professors had to be ready to answer the best objections to what they taught. Even written texts had this form–Aquinas’ Summa is an example.
JW: “Even during the Soviet period, when the KGB wished to call someone a low down snake in the grass, they called them a “Isuit” (i.e. a “Jesuit”). I don’t really care much what your uniate friends may think of the Russian Orthodox Church today.”
It is no doubt true that the level of hatred the Orthodox Church inspired in believers toward Jews is matched only by the level of hatred it inspired toward Catholics, and that this hatred trickled down even to the KGB. This, no doubt, is why the Catholic Church in Russia was virtually exterminated while the Orthodox Church continued to function. But you will admit that something is not true just because a murderous KGB agent says it is.
That you ‘don’t care’ what the Greek Catholics think about the persecution they’ve suffered because of the Orthodox speaks to your lack of Christian charity.
JW: “The Russian Church alone represents a majority of the Orthodox, and this council has been very favorably received.”
This is a Russian Orthodox Fantasy. The Greek Orthodox, for example, do not recognize the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church or its councils. Again, because of the lack of a common teaching authority, even a simple question of moral theology like ‘Is contraception permitted?’ cannot yield a common Orthodox view.
The level of heterodoxy and strange teaching among the Orthodox is quite high. Just read Father Seraphim Rose on UFO’s.
And then there is the connection between Christian Orthodoxy and very unchristian kinds of nationalism. In an excellent article on the possibility of union with the Orthodox Aidan Nichols wrote:
‘It is the close link between Church and national consciousness, patriotic consciousness, which renders Uniatism so totally unacceptable in such countries as Greece and Rumania, and it is this phenomenon of Orthodox nationalism which I find the least attractive feature of Orthodoxy today. An extreme example is the widespread philosophy in the Church of Serbia which goes by the name of the mediaeval royal Serbian saint Sava – hence Svetosavlje, ‘Saint-Sava-sm’. The creation of the influential bishop Nikolay Velimirovich, who died in 1956, it argues that the Serbian people are, by their history of martyrdom, an elect nation, even among the Orthodox, a unique bearer of salvific suffering, an incomparably holy people, and counterposes them in particular to their Western neighbours who are merely pseudo-Christians, believers in humanity without divinity.’
This sort of thing goes unchecked in Orthodoxy precisely because of the lack of any common authority in Orthodoxy. When Orthodox clergy are involved in heterodox activities they are often unchecked by their Churches because of a lack of Orthodox religious authority. There’s Father Shargunov in Russia, for example, who supports the Communists, and Father Mathai Nooranal, who ran in India on the Communist party ticket.
You cite the ‘Pavelic papers’ site as an example of a modern ‘Inquisition.’ The state of historical scholarship on this issue is comparable to the work on Pius XII prior to the work of Ronald Rychlak and others in examining the evidence. What we do know is that Catholc clergy in the area who were involved in crimes (like the evil Miroslav Filipovic-Majstorovic) were promptly not only laicized but also excommunicated. On the other hand, the Orthodox priest Father Momcilo Djujic, who presided over the massacre of more than 100 civilians was held in high regard by Orthodox Christians in the US where he emigrated after WWII. (For information about Father Djujic see: http://www.balkan-archive.org.yu/kosta/polluters/1/0154.html)
JW defends Palamas’ breathing exercises and compares them unfavorably with Catholic-Buddhist dialogue.
Look no matter how you try to couch Palamite breathing exercises in Christian terms, they are a departure from any form of prayer known to Christianity. Palamas taught that you can arrive at a transcendent state of seeing the energies of God by controlling your breathing. This is nothing like the ascetic practices of the early Christian monastic tradition. It is a meditative practice that came to Palamas from some non-Christian tradition.
JPII, on the other hand, never suggested that Christians adopt Buddhist practices or beliefs. He merely taught that Christians ought to understand and dialogue with other religious traditions, including Buddhism.



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Larry

posted August 15, 2005 at 12:53 pm


Peggy, thank you for your warm and deeply felt reply.



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Peggy

posted August 15, 2005 at 2:42 pm


Larry,
You are very kind and gracious. God bless you and yours.



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Fr. John Whiteford

posted August 15, 2005 at 7:04 pm


RP wrote: “The nuns dressed in civilian clothing are not monastic orders–they are orders whose charism is an active life, e.g. of education. The Catholic Monastic orders–e.g., Benedictines, Trappists, etc.–are alive and well, and I would not be surprised if the number of Catholics in monastic life were not higher than the number of Orthodox, though I have not looked at the numbers. If ignorant statements such as yours are indicative of the level of education of the average Orthodox priest, Orthodoxy is in bigger trouble than I suspected.”
Me: Non-monastic Nuns? That is like being an unclerical clergyman, or a gentile Jew. What examples of non-monastic nuns, dressed in business attire can you point me to prior to the 20th century?



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reluctant penitent

posted August 15, 2005 at 7:15 pm


Examples of active orders are Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits. These orders were never strictly contemplative–i.e. ‘monastic’ in the strict sense consistent with the meaning of the Greek ‘monastikos.’ The Benedictines, Trappists, Cistercians are contemplative/monastic orders.



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Fr. John Whiteford

posted August 15, 2005 at 7:47 pm


RP Writes: “Not matters of authority–theological matters. Disputation about theological matters has gone on in Catholic Universities since the Middle Ages. In fact, classes were organized around objections and replies to objections. Theology professors had to be ready to answer the best objections to what they taught. Even written texts had this form–Aquinas’ Summa is an example.”
Me: Such discussions in the middle ages were about things that were not matters of dogma, such as how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Such discussions did not include debating whether Christ’s body really rose from the dead, or whether homosexuality was really a sin.
RP: “It is no doubt true that the level of hatred the Orthodox Church inspired in believers toward Jews is matched only by the level of hatred it inspired toward Catholics, and that this hatred trickled down even to the KGB.”
Me: The Jews were expelled from much of western Europe. Where did they go? In large numbers, they went to Orthodox countries, such as Russia. There certainly were problems with anti-semitism, but it was German and Croatian Roman Catholics that tried to exterminate them… not the Orthodox.
RP: “This, no doubt, is why the Catholic Church in Russia was virtually exterminated while the Orthodox Church continued to function. But you will admit that something is not true just because a murderous KGB agent says it is.”
Me: What time period are you referring to? The Soviet period, in which the Orthodox Church was virtually exterminated?
Jesuits were not thought poorly of just because Russians were inclined to think poorly of Jesuits. They really were back stabbing, snakes in the grass. See:
http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/vatican_russia.aspx
RP: “That you ‘don’t care’ what the Greek Catholics think about the persecution they’ve suffered because of the Orthodox speaks to your lack of Christian charity.”
Me: The Uniates were not persecuted by the Orthodox during the Soviet period. They were persecuted by the Soviets, during the Soviet period… as were the Orthodox, and in far greater numbers.
RP: “This is a Russian Orthodox Fantasy.”
Me: It is a numerical fact.
RP: “The Greek Orthodox, for example, do not recognize the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church or its councils. Again, because of the lack of a common teaching authority, even a simple question of moral theology like ‘Is contraception permitted?’ cannot yield a common Orthodox view.”
Me: You don’t know what you are talking about. No local council has jurisdiction authority over another local Church. However, as is the case with the many local councils that were specifically accepted at Ecumenical Councils, local councils can gain Ecumenical authority. Each local Church pays close attention to the councils of her sister Churches. If they find something objectionable, they voice their objections. If they find something useful, they use it. The document in question from the MP was very favorably received by the rest of the Church, and other local Churches make use of it as they deal with these issues in their local context.
The Orthodox Church also has had a number of Pan-Orthodox synods over the centuries, in which the various local Churches have been represented. So it is historically inaccurate to assert that the Orthodox Church no longer has Councils.
RP: “The level of heterodoxy and strange teaching among the Orthodox is quite high. Just read Father Seraphim Rose on UFO’s.”
Me: What about it?
RP: “There’s Father Shargunov in Russia, for example, who supports the Communists, and Father Mathai Nooranal, who ran in India on the Communist party ticket.”
Me: Father Mathai Nooranal is probably a monophysite or nestorian. As for Fr. Shargunov, what heretical teachings was he advocating? The Communists in Eastern Europe are repackaging themselves. One might think him an idiot for supporting them, but that doesn’t make him a heretic.
RP: “You cite the ‘Pavelic papers’ site as an example of a modern ‘Inquisition.’ The state of historical scholarship on this issue is comparable to the work on Pius XII prior to the work of Ronald Rychlak and others in examining the evidence. What we do know is that Catholc clergy in the area who were involved in crimes (like the evil Miroslav Filipovic-Majstorovic) were promptly not only laicized but also excommunicated. On the other hand, the Orthodox priest Father Momcilo Djujic, who presided over the massacre of more than 100 civilians was held in high regard by Orthodox Christians in the US where he emigrated after WWII. (For information about Father Djujic see: http://www.balkan-archive.org.yu/kosta/polluters/1/0154.html)”
Me: What one priest may or may not have done is one thing. What an entire Roman Catholic Country did, with the support of the Roman Catholic Church is another. The Croatian Ustashe killed about 1/2 million Serbs, not to mention Jews, or Gypsies. Not only did the RC Church lead the cheering section, and not only did her clergy openingly and regularly participate in this — after the war, and after the crimes were clearly known by all, the Vatican helped Croatian war criminals leave Europe to Argentina and elsewhere. Pavlic himself, Croatias own little Hitler, was hidden inside the Vatican itself, before being shipped off to Argentina, where he served the Peron government.
RP: “Look no matter how you try to couch Palamite breathing exercises in Christian terms, they are a departure from any form of prayer known to Christianity.”
Me: You are ignorant. He came up with nothing new. This was the form of prayer that came out of the Egyptian Monastic Golden age.
RP: “Palamas taught that you can arrive at a transcendent state of seeing the energies of God by controlling your breathing.”
Me: Nonsense. He taught that this was an aid. Fasting is an aid too, but you don’t attain to theosis by fasting. Fasting is but one tool that may help you get there, if you are obeying the Gospel, love God and your follew men, and are truly seeking God.
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church states that Hesychasm origins go back to the 4th through 5th century, and cite St. Gregory of Nyssa, Evagrius Ponticus, St. John Climacus, St. Maximus the Confessor, and St. Symeon the New Theologian.
You keep focusing on the fact that hesychasm involves a rythem of breathing, but make no mention of the prayer that provides the rythem:
“O Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
That is about as far from hinduism as one can get.
RP: “This is nothing like the ascetic practices of the early Christian monastic tradition. It is a meditative practice that came to Palamas from some non-Christian tradition.”
Me: What proof do you have that it comes from a non Christian source? What do you know of the ancient ascetics? In many cases, they practices very extreme bodily disciplines. They certainly did not run around in business suits, living like CEO’s, and calling themselves monks or nuns.
RP: “JPII, on the other hand, never suggested that Christians adopt Buddhist practices or beliefs. He merely taught that Christians ought to understand and dialogue with other religious traditions, including Buddhism.”
Me: The monks he sent to Buddhist monasteries were/are taught the practice of Buddhist meditation. I have a Buddhist book that brags about this fact, and you can hear Roman Catholic Monastics talk about this on video tape, by getting your hands on a copy of this video:
http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/video2.aspx
That is apostasy. Allowing Buddhists to place idols on a Christian altar is apostasy. It is anti-Christian, by an historic measure of the term.



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Fr. John Whiteford

posted August 15, 2005 at 7:50 pm


RP wrote: “Examples of active orders are Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits. These orders were never strictly contemplative–i.e. ‘monastic’ in the strict sense consistent with the meaning of the Greek ‘monastikos.’ The Benedictines, Trappists, Cistercians are contemplative/monastic orders.”
Me: Can you point me to the icons or paintings of the Franciscan, Dominican, or Jesuit monks or nuns that ran around in business attire, living the life of business men? You can’t. Your trying to duck and hide here, but you know what you are defending is indefensible.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 15, 2005 at 9:47 pm


JW: “Can you point me to the icons or paintings of the Franciscan, Dominican, or Jesuit monks or nuns that ran around in business attire, living the life of business men?”
Since ‘business suits’ are a relatively recent development in human history I don’t think that you can find paintings of anyone–Jesuit or non-Jesuit–wearing a business suit. Matteo Ricci did dress as a Confucian. (You can find a picture here: http://www.faculty.fairfield.edu/jmac/sj/scientists/ricci.htm)
JW: “You don’t know what you are talking about. No local council has jurisdiction authority over another local Church. However, as is the case with the many local councils that were specifically accepted at Ecumenical Councils, local councils can gain Ecumenical authority. Each local Church pays close attention to the councils of her sister Churches. If they find something objectionable, they voice their objections. If they find something useful, they use it.”
Precisely my point. Sounds quite a lot like the Protestants. The answer to the question ‘Is X consistent with the teaching of the Church?’ depends on which way the wind is blowing at any given time. When secular society says that contraception is impermissible, so do the Orthodox Bishops. When secular society says it’s not then the Orthodox Bishops do too.
JW: “The Croatian Ustashe killed about 1/2 million Serbs, not to mention Jews, or Gypsies.” The “RC Church lead the cheering section,” and “her clergy openingly and regularly participate in this.”
The only member of the clergy involved in war crimes–Majstorovic-Filipovic–was promptly laicized and excommunicated. It’s true that the Communists and Serbian Chetniks killed many clergy under the pretext of killing ‘collaborators’ but that was just a way of justifying their murders. It’s also true that the Communists put on a show trial in which they alleged all sorts of things against Stepinac. But the facts tell a different story. As with Pius XII, cool-headed historical scholarship will eventually prevail.
On the other hand, there were Serbian Orthodox clergy who participated in killings–like Djujic–who continued to be members of the Serbian Orthodox clergy in high standing. Mind you, I’m not claiming that the Serbian Orthodox Church engaged in any sort of systematic persecution of anyone. But neither did the Catholic Church.
The UStashe had a perverted Nazi-type ideology. They did not care about people being Catholic or Orthodox but about turning Serbs into Croats. In fact, they were quite well-disposed toward Orthodoxy because they thought it easier to control. Their preferred option of dealing with Serbs was to establish a Croatian Orthodox Church and force all of the Serbs to join it and, in this way, turn them into Croatians. The Ustashe were demented, evil, and virtually everything they did was inexcusable. But to say that the Ustashe regime was some sort of Catholic Church plot against the Orthodox–as many Serb nationalists claim–is a scandalous lie, and an excuse that Communists and extreme nationalists used to justify to themselves their own persecution of Catholics and Catholic clergy.
JW: “Jesuits were not thought poorly of just because Russians were inclined to think poorly of Jesuits. They really were back stabbing, snakes in the grass.”
These disgraceful words require no comment. Unfortunately, they are indicative of the level of discourse that is common among frighteningly many Orthodox priests. It’s also a reason why the Orthodox Church experienced nothing like the persecution to which Catholics–Roman and Byzantine–were subjected in the Soviet Union. No, the KGB were not Orthodox, but the anti-Catholicism fostered by the Orthodox Church trickled down to all levels of Orthodox society, including future KGB members.
JW: ‘You keep focusing on the fact that hesychasm involves a rythem of breathing, but make no mention of the prayer that provides the rythem: “O Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”‘
True. But in the case of Palamite prayer the saying of the words is subordinate to the aim of controlled breathing. One says the words in order to control breathing. The result is an altered state of consciousness. This is exactly the Hindu method of meditation. The ‘form of prayer that came out of the Egyptian Monastic Golden age’ did not place primacy of emphasis on controlled breathing. Nor did it make any claims about being able to see the ‘uncreated energies of God’ with one’s physical eyes. It is because of the emphasis on altering one’s physical state by means of controlled breathing, and because of the claim that anyone who subjects himself to controlled breating can see the ‘uncreated energies of God’ with his physical eyes that Barlaam claimed that Palamas was a heretic, and he made quite a good case. But I’m sure I’ll hear from the good Father that Barlaam was a mason and a rosicrucian like Solovyev.
JW: ‘The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church states that Hesychasm origins go back to the 4th through 5th century, and cite St. Gregory of Nyssa, Evagrius Ponticus, St. John Climacus, St. Maximus the Confessor, and St. Symeon the New Theologian.’
True. But the Hesychasts did not practice the Palamite method of controlled breathing, nor did they make any claims about being able to see the uncreated energies of God with their physical eyes. It is these two claims that, as Barlaam rightly argued, are heretical from a Christian perspective.
JW: ‘The monks he sent to Buddhist monasteries were/are taught the practice of Buddhist meditation.’
One can learn a method of meditation without affirming the theology behind it, which is what the Catholics did. But I’m not sure why you should object to the Catholics learning method since it’s so close to the Palamite method of controlled breathing.
JW: ‘Father Mathai Nooranal is probably a monophysite or nestorian.’
Father Mathai is Orthodox.



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Fr. John Whiteford

posted August 16, 2005 at 12:28 am


RP wrote:
“Since ‘business suits’ are a relatively recent development in human history I don’t think that you can find paintings of anyone–Jesuit or non-Jesuit–wearing a business suit.”
Me: You’re not being honest here. You know what I mean. Secular attire, as opposed to monastic attire.
RP: “Matteo Ricci did dress as a Confucian. (You can find a picture here: http://www.faculty.fairfield.edu/jmac/sj/scientists/ricci.htm)”
Me: Hardly qualifies as an example, since he clearly was trying to come up with some attire that would fit the culture he was trying to reach. And after all, he was a Jesuit… and so who knows what he was up to. Jesuits of that period were in a class closer to the KGB than monastics.
RP: “Precisely my point. Sounds quite a lot like the Protestants. The answer to the question ‘Is X consistent with the teaching of the Church?’ depends on which way the wind is blowing at any given time. When secular society says that contraception is impermissible, so do the Orthodox Bishops. When secular society says it’s not then the Orthodox Bishops do too.”
Me: You view all the world through the lens of papism. No, we do not have an earthly dictator. However, there is far less dogmatic debate in Orthodoxy today, despite the fact that the Church has not fully recovered from Communist persecutions, then there is in contemporary Roman Catholicism.
RP: “The only member of the clergy involved in war crimes–Majstorovic-Filipovic–was promptly laicized and excommunicated. It’s true that the Communists and Serbian Chetniks killed many clergy under the pretext of killing ‘collaborators’ but that was just a way of justifying their murders. It’s also true that the Communists put on a show trial in which they alleged all sorts of things against Stepinac. But the facts tell a different story. As with Pius XII, cool-headed historical scholarship will eventually prevail.”
Me: There are countless non-Orthodox and non-Serbian scholarly works on this subject that say that you are wrong. You appeal to scholarship that doesn’t exist, and say it will one day, and so that settles the question. I don’t buy it.
RP: “The UStashe had a perverted Nazi-type ideology. They did not care about people being Catholic or Orthodox but about turning Serbs into Croats. In fact, they were quite well-disposed toward Orthodoxy because they thought it easier to control. Their preferred option of dealing with Serbs was to establish a Croatian Orthodox Church and force all of the Serbs to join it and, in this way, turn them into Croatians.”
Me: There were forced conversions to Roman Catholicism under the Ustashe. What is your evidence to support your claims to contrary? More scholarship yet to be written?
RP: “The Ustashe were demented, evil, and virtually everything they did was inexcusable. But to say that the Ustashe regime was some sort of Catholic Church plot against the Orthodox–as many Serb nationalists claim–is a scandalous lie, and an excuse that Communists and extreme nationalists used to justify to themselves their own persecution of Catholics and Catholic clergy.”
Me: So why did the Vatican hide Pavlic (in the Vatican itself), and then give him a passport so he could go to Argentina?
RP: “These disgraceful words require no comment. Unfortunately, they are indicative of the level of discourse that is common among frighteningly many Orthodox priests.”
Me: You began this discussion by attacking the Orthodox Church. You have engaged in ad hominem since the discussion began. It is a fact that Jesuits were engaged in espionage. Even Rome had to abolish the order because they had gotten out of control.
RP: “It’s also a reason why the Orthodox Church experienced nothing like the persecution to which Catholics–Roman and Byzantine–were subjected in the Soviet Union.”
Me: What an incredibly ignorant assertion.
First off, the Vatican had hardly a negative word to say about the Bolsheviks for the first 10 years of their reign of terror, which for the Orthodox were among the very worst. Note the following quote from an appeal to non-Orthodox Christians from the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile: “To turn with a special appeal, to raise our voice in protest against the violence used against His Holiness the Patriarch of all the Russians, to all the heads of other Orthodox and non-Orthodox Churches, except for the Pope of Rome, about whom we have precise evidence that he not only entered into negotiations with the Christ-betraying Bolsheviks, but attempted to use the persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church and her glory to the mercenary ends of militant Roman Catholicism.” (Archbishop Nikon, editor, Zhizneopisanie blazenneyshago Antonia, Mitropilita Kievskago i Galitskago, New York, 10 volumes, see Vol. WI, p. 96.)
It was only when the Soviets began to turn their attentions to Catholics in the Soviet Union that the first peeps of protest were heard from Rome. Prior to that, Rome remained silent, in hopes of taking advantage of the situation.
To read of the persecution of the Orthodox in the Soviet Union see:
http://www.uq.edu.au/~laacassi/OrthodoxChristianityandMilitantAtheism.html
RP: “True. But in the case of Palamite prayer the saying of the words is subordinate to the aim of controlled breathing. One says the words in order to control breathing.”
Me: You assertion here is baseless, and ignorant. I will take the words of the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church over the words of a person hiding behind a pseudonym:
“The Hesychasts attached particular importance to the unceasing repetition of the Jesus Prayer. To facilitate this continual recitation they recommended the aspirant to adopt a particular bodily posture — head bowed, eyes fixed on the place of the heart — and they taught that the breathing should be carefully controlled so as to keep time with the recitation of the prayer. This physical method was, of course, not regarded as the essential element in the practice of the Jesus Prayer, but simply as a useful accessory.” (s.v. “Hesychasm”, p 644).
RP: “The result is an altered state of consciousness. This is exactly the Hindu method of meditation. The ‘form of prayer that came out of the Egyptian Monastic Golden age’ did not place primacy of emphasis on controlled breathing. Nor did it make any claims about being able to see the ‘uncreated energies of God’ with one’s physical eyes. It is because of the emphasis on altering one’s physical state by means of controlled breathing, and because of the claim that anyone who subjects himself to controlled breating can see the ‘uncreated energies of God’ with his physical eyes that Barlaam claimed that Palamas was a heretic, and he made quite a good case.”
Me: What we should note first of all is the complete lack of evidence that you present to support your assertions here. I refer the fair minded reader, to Step 27 of the Ladder of Divine Ascent, by St. John Climacus, who reposed in 649 a.d. The step is entitled “On holy stillness (hesychia) of body and soul”. In this chapter, he repeatedly states that he will not go into certain details because those who have done, understand it, and those who have not, will not, until they do:
“He who practices silence with perception of heart will understand this last remark; but he who is yet a child is unaware and ignorant of it” (27:3).
“A discerning hesychast will have no need of words, since he is enlightened by deeds rather than by words” (27:4).
“If you have learned the art of prayer scientifically, you cannot fail to know what I have said” (27:21).
But he does say a few things which give us some idea of what he is talking about in practical terms:
“Let the remembrance of Jesus be present with each breath, and then you will know the value of stillness (hesychia)” 27:61
The remembrance of Jesus is the Jesus prayer, which St. John speaks of more specifically elsewhere. And here he connects it with breathing.
St. Gregory Palamas was a direct bearer of that ascetic tradition which still lives to this day on Mt. Sinai (were St. John Climacus lived), Mt. Athos, and throughout the Orthodox Monastic world. The fact that you don’t have step by step instructions prior to St. Gregory only proves that it was not a disputed matter until Barlaam came on the scene.
RP: “But I’m sure I’ll hear from the good Father that Barlaam was a mason and a rosicrucian like Solovyev.”
Me: No, Barlaam was a papist, and a scholastic. As for Soloviev, his connections with Kabbalah and Rosicrucianism is spoken of in the most recent St. Vladimir Seminary Quarterly (Vol 1&2 of 2005), especially in the article “Georges Florovsky and the Sophiological Controversy, p.67ff.
RP: “True. But the Hesychasts did not practice the Palamite method of controlled breathing,”
Me: And you know this based on what?
RP: “… nor did they make any claims about being able to see the uncreated energies of God with their physical eyes.”
Me: On Mt. Tabor, did the Apostles see the divine light with their physical eyes, or no? St. Gregory said yes. Barlaam wouldn’t have known, because unlike St. Gregory, he did not know what St. John Climacus was talking about in Step 27 of the Ladder of Divine Ascent.
RP: “One can learn a method of meditation without affirming the theology behind it, which is what the Catholics did. But I’m not sure why you should object to the Catholics learning method since it’s so close to the Palamite method of controlled breathing.”
Me: One cannot practice a method of meditation without affirming the theology behind it, and your monks are practicing those methods as part of their “spiritual dialogue” with Buddhists. And you have yet to explain the Pope’s allowing buddists and witch-doctors to use Roman Catholic Churches, and set Idols on the altar. In the early Church, Christians were martyred rather than to even appear to offer incense to idols. Your Pope, allows them to be put on Christian altars. How is that not apostasy?
RP: “Father Mathai is Orthodox.”
Me: Under which local Orthodox Church? Nestorians and Monophysites use the term “Orthodox” too.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 16, 2005 at 2:00 am


JW: ‘Secular attire, as opposed to monastic attire.’
Again, those Catholics who live a monastic life wear Monastic outfits. The orders that permit civilian clothing are not monastic orders. Here is an example of a Catholic Monastic order:
http://www.carmelitehermits.org/index.htm
You will notice in the pictures that they dress like Monks.
Here is a famous French monastery:
http://www.solesmes.com/GB/entree.php?js=1
You will notice again that they are dressed like monks.
There are countless such Catholic monasteries around the world in which Catholic men and women live a monastic life and dress like monks and nuns. Just Google ‘Catholic monastery’ and you will find lots of others.
It’s true that there are some non-monastic orders that allow civilian clothing because their mombers live an active rather than contemplative life–e.g. they are devoted to teaching, missionary work, medicine, and other such occupations. The idea of an active order is entirely foreign to the Orthodox world, and one ought really compare only the Catholic monastic/contemplative orders with Orthodox monasticism.
JW: ‘Jesuits of that period were in a class closer to the KGB than monastics.’
Is this a quote from Jack Chick? If the Orthodox are going to calumniate the Catholics they should at least try to be a bit original.
JW: “There are countless non-Orthodox and non-Serbian scholarly works on this subject that say that you are wrong. You appeal to scholarship that doesn’t exist, and say it will one day, and so that settles the question. I don’t buy it.”
Again, I repeat, the only cleric guilty of war crimes was laicized and excommunicated. The Ustashe were primarily a nationalist movement. When the Croatian Orthodox Church option did not work they tried bringing Serbs to the Greek and Roman Catholic Churches. The Church was never in favor of forced conversion and cooperated only inasmuch as was necessary to save as many lives as possible. For that they were persecuted after the war, the Greek Catholics perhaps the most brutally. You cannot find the name of a single cleric who cooperated in war crimes and who was not laicized and excommunivated. To suggest that the Catholic Church ran the Ustase is the worst sort of blood libel.
FW: “Prior to that, Rome remained silent, in hopes of taking advantage of the situation.”
Yet another example of blood libel. In fact, Catholic clergy cooperated with the Orthodox and were persecuted even more harshly as a result. Here is a paper on the topic: http://www.loyno.edu/history/journal/1987-8/byrnes.htm
A key passage:
‘Exarch Fedorov and Monsignor Budkiewicz held meetings with the Orthodox clergy in an effort to promote more cooperation between the Roman Catholic clergy and the Orthodox clergy. Monsignor Budkiewicz was of the opinion that if all religions were joined in a common purpose, supported by the majority of the people, the Soviet government would be forced to accommodate them. What the monsignor failed to take into account was the militant atheism of the Soviet government, whose objective was to exterminate all religion. The new strategy of the Catholic Church in Russia brought about more intense persecution of the clergy and laity in 1919 and 1920. There were massacres of Poles and Ruthenians with many of them being buried alive.’
Here is something online sympathetic to Palamas (http://www.pelagia.org/htm/b16.en.saint_gregory_palamas_as_a_hagiorite.03.htm):
‘He [i.e. Palamas] analyses just what man’s nous is, that the heart is the place of the rational faculty, the first rational organ of the body, that the nous is in the bodily organ of the heart, not as in a receptacle, but as in an organ which directs the entire body. Thus we must struggle to bring the nous back into the heart, where its natural place is. Being a great and holy hesychast the saint brings into the soul that which also exists in God. Just as God has essence and energy, so also the soul has essence and energy. The soul’s energy which finds itself in the rational part and is flowing out through the senses towards creation must return to the heart. Beginners in the spiritual life can succeed in this by controlling their breathing.’
Points to note:
1. Palamas’ method relies on claims about the location of nous in the body and the aim of prayer as that of bringing nous back into the body.
2. ‘The soul’s energy which finds itself in the rational part and is flowing out through the senses towards creation must return to the heart.’
3. The begginer is able to accomplish the aim of bringing nous back into the heart by controlling breathing.
In all three respects the method resembles that of the Indian Yogis. Even Kallistos Ware agrees with me, as the following excerpt from one of his works–where he compares’ the method to what the ‘aspirant in Yoga’ does–evidences (http://www.oodegr.com/english/psyxotherap/dyn_onom1.htm#_Toc110013907):
‘ii) Control of the breathing. The breathing is to be made slower and at the same time co-ordinated with the rhythm of the Prayer. Often the first part, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God’, is said while drawing in the breath, and the second part, ‘have mercy on me a sinner’, while breathing out. Other methods are possible. The recitation of the Prayer may also be synchronized with the beating of the heart. iii) Inward exploration. Just as the aspirant in Yoga is taught to concentrate his thought in specific parts of his body, so the Hesychast concentrates his thought in the cardiac centre. While inhaling through his nose and propelling his breath down into his lungs, he makes his intellect ‘descend’ with the breath and he ‘searches’ inwardly for the place of the heart. Exact instructions concerning this exercise are not committed to writing for fear they should be misunderstood; the details of the process are so delicate that the personal guidance of an experienced master is indispensable. The beginner who, in the absence of such guidance, attempts to search for the cardiac centre, is in danger of directing his thought unawares into the area which lies immediately below the heart — into the abdomen, that is and the entrails, the effect on his prayer is disastrous, for this lower region is the source of the carnal thoughts and sensations which pollute the mind and the heart.’
JW: ‘On Mt. Tabor, did the Apostles see the divine light with their physical eyes, or no?’
Yes, but they did not see the divine light because they used the Palamite method of controlled breathing.
JW: ‘One cannot practice a method of meditation without affirming the theology behind it, and your monks are practicing those methods as part of their “spiritual dialogue” with Buddhists.’
One most certainly can practice a method of meditation without buying into the theology. For example, someone might try a Buddhist meditation posture and repetition of a sound and have an experience without believing that he is experiencing either Nirvana or the light from Mount Tabor.



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Fr. John Whiteford

posted August 16, 2005 at 8:34 am


RP: “It’s true that there are some non-monastic orders that allow civilian clothing because their mombers live an active rather than contemplative life–e.g. they are devoted to teaching, missionary work, medicine, and other such occupations. The idea of an active order is entirely foreign to the Orthodox world, and one ought really compare only the Catholic monastic/contemplative orders with Orthodox monasticism.”
Me: You cannot offer the proof I ask, and yet can’t bring yourself to admit the obvious. Prior to Vatican II, you cannot find examples of Franciscans, just for example, running around in secular attire as a standard matter of practice. Franciscans are monks, and their monasteries are called monasteries. They traditionally had a habit — no matter what distinctions you wish to stretch to make then non-monastic monastics. And yet today, these monks of the last days live like laity… and not even particularly pious laity at that. Pious laity understand that chastity must include not having sex. I have heard your non-monastic monastics talk about chastity in such a way that it did not necessarily imply that. You Church tolerates this.
Thus, don’t talk to the Orthodox about what monasticism is or is not.
RE: Jesuits, RP: “Is this a quote from Jack Chick? If the Orthodox are going to calumniate the Catholics they should at least try to be a bit original.”
Me: I note you dismiss what I say rather than answer it. The fact that the Jesuits were kicked out of several Roman Catholic countries and eventually even supressed by Rome is a fact. This happened not because they were such a pious order, but because they had a cloak and dagger role that even Catholics eventually got fed up with.
RP: “Again, I repeat, the only cleric guilty of war crimes was laicized and excommunicated. The Ustashe were primarily a nationalist movement. When the Croatian Orthodox Church option did not work they tried bringing Serbs to the Greek and Roman Catholic Churches. The Church was never in favor of forced conversion and cooperated only inasmuch as was necessary to save as many lives as possible. For that they were persecuted after the war, the Greek Catholics perhaps the most brutally. You cannot find the name of a single cleric who cooperated in war crimes and who was not laicized and excommunivated. To suggest that the Catholic Church ran the Ustase is the worst sort of blood libel.”
Me: I asked you for proof and references, and you can only assert “Again, I repeat…” No evidence is provided. You only appeal to scholarship yet unwritten, and do not touch Pavlic (Croatia’s Hitler) hiding in the Vatican, and being given a passport to go to Argentina with the blood of 1/2 million Serbs still on his hands.
RP: “Yet another example of blood libel. In fact, Catholic clergy cooperated with the Orthodox and were persecuted even more harshly as a result.”
Me: Your paper only proves that Roman Catholics did suffer during that period of time. Now cite one example, prior to 1937, in which the Pope objected to the general slaughter of Christians in Russia. I made an error due to the lateness of the hour in my previous post. It took 20 rather than 10 years for the Pope to speak out against the Bolsheviks, despite the fact that RC’s did suffer at times. But to say they suffered more is ridiculous, and you offer nothing to substantiate this assertion. For one thing, there were comparatively very few Roman Catholics living inside the borders of the Soviet Union between 1917 and 1937. The Baltic states, Finland, and Poland were independent.
RP: “1. Palamas’ method relies on claims about the location of nous in the body and the aim of prayer as that of bringing nous back into the body.”
Me: And if you had studied this issue, you would know that this comes straight from The Ladder of Divine Ascent, from St. John Climacus (a book and a saint the RC Church embraces):
“A hesychast is he who strives to confine his incorporeal being within his bodily house, paradoxical as this is” (step 27:6).
RP: “2. ‘The soul’s energy which finds itself in the rational part and is flowing out through the senses towards creation must return to the heart.'”
St. John Climacus: “Shut the door of your cell to your body, the door of your tongue to speech, and the inner gate to evil spirits” (27:18). “…come and follow Me to union with most blessed stillness (hesychia), and I will teach you the visible activity and life of the spiritual powers. They never weary of praising their Maker to all eternity… Those will not stop until they reach the seraphim, and these will not weary until they become angels. Blessed is he who hopes; thrice blessed is he who shall receive; but he who possesses is an angel” (27:28).
The body and the spirit are not just incidentally connected because we happen to have both of them. They are connected in our being. The hesychast seeks to attain the prayer of the heart. This is achieved when his breath and the beating of his heart are united with the words of his prayer, and he unceasingly prays the Jesus prayer.
RP: “3. The begginer is able to accomplish the aim of bringing nous back into the heart by controlling breathing.”
Me: Note that this is for begginers. It is not the end (contrary to your assertions), but a means to the end. And again, here is St. John Climacus:
“Let the remembrance of Jesus be present with each breath, and then you will know the value of stillness (hesychia)” 27:61
RP: “In all three respects the method resembles that of the Indian Yogis.”
Me: I have studied Hinduism and Buddhism in some detail, and there are huge differences in terms of the practical techniques, and the aim. Buddhism and Hinduism have as their aim the blanking of the mind. To eliminate all thought, and become one with the great nothingness. Hesychasm uses physical techniques to focus on continual prayer. One focuses on the meaning of the words “O Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” There is nothing analogous to this in either hinduism of the Buddhism that your monks are now being taught and embracing.
Indian Yogis probably bow when they pray, but we do not say that we should stop bowing because there is an outward similiarity.
RP: “Even Kallistos Ware agrees with me, as the following excerpt from one of his works–where he compares’ the method to what the ‘aspirant in Yoga’ does”
Me: Bishop Kallistos does not agree with you that this technique is the focus of hesychasm. He agrees with the Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church that the focus is on the prayer, and the techniques are only useful tools, that are not obligatory to achieve the end.
He also has this to say, in his same booklet on the Jesus prayer:
“Besides similarities, there are also differences. All pictures have frames, and all picture-frames have certain features in common; yet the pictures within the frames may be utterly different. What matters is the picture, not the frame. In the case of the Jesus Prayer, the physical techniques are as it were the frame, while the mental invocation of Christ is the picture within the frame. The ‘frame’ of Jesus Prayer certainly resembles various non-Christian ‘frames’, but this should not make us insensitive to the uniqueness of the picture within, to the distinctively Christian content of the Prayer. The essential point in the Jesus Prayer is not the act of repetition in itself, not how we sit or breathe, but to whom we speak; and in this instance the words are addressed unambiguously to the Incarnate Saviour Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son Mary.
The existence of a physical technique in connection with the Jesus Prayer should not blind us as to the Prayer’s true character. The Jesus Prayer is not just a device to help us concentrate or relax. It is not simply a piece of ‘Christian Yoga’, a type of ‘Transcendental Meditation’, or a ‘Christian mantra’, even though some have tried to interpret it in this way. It is, on the contrary, an invocation specifically addressed to another person — to God made man, Jesus Christ, our personal Saviour and Redeemer. The Jesus Prayer, therefore, is far more than an isolated method or technique. It exists within a certain context, and if divorced from that context it loses its proper meaning.
RP: “Yes, but they did not see the divine light because they used the Palamite method of controlled breathing.”
Me: But your point was to take issue with the idea that the divine light could be seen by the physical eyes of the hesychast. I’m happy to see that you have abandoned this objection.
RP: “One most certainly can practice a method of meditation without buying into the theology. For example, someone might try a Buddhist meditation posture and repetition of a sound and have an experience without believing that he is experiencing either Nirvana or the light from Mount Tabor.”
Me: One cannot practice mind blanking meditative techniques without buying into the theology behind that approach. This is a demonic activity that opens one up to demonic influence. It is totally contrary to the Christian ascetic tradition, which warns of this.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 16, 2005 at 11:21 am


JW: ‘Franciscans are monks, and their monasteries are called monasteries. They traditionally had a habit’
Here are some Franciscan sites:
http://franciscanfriars.com/
http://www.fbecommunity.org/
http://franciscansisterscfr.com/
You will see that they are all dressed like monks and nuns. I have yet to meet a Franciscan monk in a business suit. Maybe you’re thinking about third order Franciscans?
JW: ‘I note you dismiss what I say rather than answer it.’
I think that it will be obvious to any fair-minded reader that statements like:
(a) ‘Jesuits were not thought poorly of just because Russians were inclined to think poorly of Jesuits. They really were back stabbing, snakes in the grass’
and
(b) ‘Jesuits of that period were in a class closer to the KGB than monastics’
Say more about the mental health of some members of the Orthodox presbyterate than they do about the Jesuits. Anyone who wants to pass judgment on the Jesuits can just read about them and determine for themselves whether they are an order of ‘snakes’ whose activities are comparable to those of the ‘KGB.’
JW: ‘Now cite one example, prior to 1937, in which the Pope objected to the general slaughter of Christians in Russia.’
Initially you claimed that the Catholics deliberately cooperated with the Bolsheviks in order to take advantage of the situation. You were then presented with the fact that the Catholic Church in Russia cooperated with the Orthodox rather than the Bolsheviks and did so with grave consequences for Catholics in Russia. Now you make the more moderate claim that the Pope did not condemn the persecution of the Orthodox early enough. Fine, let’s move on to this second, more moderate claim.
First of all, what does it prove? Let us suppose that the Pope made no condemnations of the Bolsheviks at all. Does it follow that the Pope approves what the Bolsheviks are doing? No. It may simply prove that the Pope was not in the habit of making pronouncements about world events, which was generally true until recently. The Orthodox Church did not condemn the persecution of the Catholic clergy during the French Revolution. Does that mean that the Orthodox Church supported the French Revolution?
But let’s get back to what actually did occur. The condemnation of 1937 that you alluded to is, I take it, is Pius XI’s Encyclical Divinis Redemptoris, issued in March of 1937. This is a Papal Encyclical. Papal Encyclicals are not meant to be timely responses to the news of the day but the Pope’s instruction to the Church. If you read the Encyclical (it is available here: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_19031937_divini-redemptoris_en.html) you will see that the Pope does not mince words in condemning both Communism and Nazism.
But why wait until 1937? You will note that the large-scale killing of Orthodox Priests and laity did not begin until the 1930’s. Here’s a source on the chronology of the martyrdom of the Russian Church: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/enarticles/030208143325. This source gives the following account of the major martyrdom of the Church:
‘Stalin’s thesis about intensification of class struggle on the way to socialism untied hands of not only NKVD (People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs), but also of the atheists. Thousands of pastors and believers were repressed. Each of them had to fill a questionnaire, that determined the grade of regime’s tolerance of the person. The parish life was controlled by supervision inspectors who were stool-pigeons of NKVD. In summer 1937 by Stalin’s command the order was prepared to shoot all the confessors, who were in prison or in camps within four months. Priest-martyr Metropolitan Petr (Poliansky) who had spent in prison and exile 12 years was killed. The sentence was executed on October 10, 1937. One by one the hierarchs were killed crowing their deeds as Confessor-Martyrs by shedding their blood for Christ. On December 11, 1937, on the training ground Butovo near Moscow Metropolitan Seraphim (Chichagov) was shot. On the last day of the horrible year 1937 one of the most notable confessors of the Orthodoxy Archbishop Faddey (Uspensky) was shot. The year of the “Great Purge” and the following year 1938 were the hardest for the clergy and laymen – 200 000 repressed and 100 000 executed. Each second priest was shot.’
These events took place between the summer and December of 1937. Pius XI’s Encyclical was published in March of 1937. Therefore, the Papal condemnation came before the large-scale martyrdom of Orthodox Christians! The condemnation was in itself very unusual given that the Papacy had never been in the habit of making specific comments on political events, even when these involve the killing of Catholics. It’s hard to find any specific condemnation of the killing of Catholic Priests during the Spanish Civil War. It does not follow that the Pope approved those killings.
There is no reason that the Church would have approved in any way the Bolshevik persecution of the Orthodox Church or that she would have preferred the Bolsheviks over the Czar. Relations between the Church and the Russian Orthodox had just begun to take a turn for the better.
The author notes (here: http://www.loyno.edu/history/journal/1987-8/byrnes.htm) that ‘In 1905, the Czarist regime of Russia and the Holy See in Rome entered into an agreement which resulted in the Edict of Toleration, which was promulgated on April 17 of that year. This law allowed the Orthodox to leave their religion without penalties and loss of rights, permitted the organization of a Russian Catholic Church and allowed the reopening of closed churches. However, this edict did not provide for free communication between the bishops and Rome, a bishop’s right to educate his clergy, or diocesan rule according to canon law.’
The Church ‘took an optimistic view of the Provisional Government, which came into power after the February 1917 revolution, because it eliminated restrictions formerly imposed on the Roman Catholic Church and laity in Russia.’ But the provisional government was not a Bolshevik government.
JW: About the Church in Pavelic’s Croatia he says ‘No evidence is provided. You only appeal to scholarship yet unwritten.’
I most certainly did provide evidence, and it does not appeal to scholarship ‘yet unwritten [sic.].’ My evidence was that the only cleric who participated in any war crimes was very promptly laicized and excommunicated. This is evidence against JW’s calumnious claim that the persecution of Serbs was run by the Church. As evidence for my claim that the Ustashi were not at all interested in spreading Catholicism I offered as evidence the fact that their first choice was to establish a Croatian Orthodox Church—which, in fact they did—and to compel Serbs to join this Church. Why? Because their primary interest was to make those areas under their control ethnically Croatian, and Serbian ethnicity was defined above all by membership in the Serbian Orthodox Church. They believed that they could turn these people into Croatians by making them members of a Croatian Orthodox Church.
The Ustashe were not elected either by the Catholic Church or by the Catholic laity. They were terrorists who had been living in training camps run by Mussolini in Italy. The party that had majority support in Croatia was the Croatian Peasant Party. When its leader, Vlatko Macek, refused to cooperate with Hitler the Ustase were brought in. The Ustase were evil and there are no excuses for the crimes that they committed. They were, however, not the creation of the Catholic Church or the Catholic laity.
JW also made some allegations about the Vatican and Pavelic. Here is what we DO know about the Vatican’s attitude toward Pavelic and the Ustashi (from a review of Phayer’s book on Pius XII here: http://www.catholicleague.org/research/catholic_church_and_the_holocaus.htm) :
‘Phayer makes a number of broad statements that are at best open to contrary interpretation, and at worst seem to misstate the facts. He claims that a private audience between Croatian Fascist leader Ante Pavelic and Pius XII, and the appointment of a nuncio, was a victory for Fascist Croatia.29 However, Pius XII refused to greet Pavelic as a head of state and formal recognition was never extended. Pavelic left Rome in an insulted rage, rather than “satisfied” as Phayer contends.30 The Vatican refused to recognize an independent state of Croatia and did not receive a Croatian representative. The pope’s representative in Croatia, Archbishop Marcone, would work tirelessly in defense of the Croatian Jews.’
As a side-note, Phayer makes a claim about the Papacy that is the exact opposite of the one made by JW earlier. According to Phayer, the Pope supported Nazism in the hope that they would defeat Bolshevism:
‘The central thesis in Phayer’s book is that Pius refused to speak out against the Holocaust and sought a negotiated peace because he wanted a strong Germany to face down the threat of Soviet communism. Yet, nowhere in the book does Phayer cite documented statements of Pope Pius XII to support that assertion. Though he charges 36 that Pius wanted the Soviet Union abandoned by the Allies in order to free up Germany to destroy the Soviet Union, the source for such a conclusion seems to be Nazi wishful-thinking than documented Vatican positions. “Pius XII did not change his position when Germany began its war with Russia, and he never spoke, even by means of allusion, about a ‘crusade’ against Bolshevism or a ‘holy war.’” 37’
The Church, it appears, is behind every possible evil conspiracy, even when all of these conspiracies sabotage each other.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 16, 2005 at 12:05 pm


JW: ‘Bishop Kallistos does not agree with you that this technique is the focus of hesychasm.’
Of course, as an Orthodox Bishop Ware is quite sensitive about parallels between Palamite controlled breathing techniques and Yoga. Nevertheless, even he is forced to concede the striking parallels, as evidenced by the passage I cited. Bishop Ware does say that ‘The essential point in the Jesus Prayer is not the act of repetition in itself, not how we sit or breathe, but to whom we speak.’ However, that is in conflict with the actual method, which does place primacy on the controlled breathing. The texts I cited previously—from Orthodox sources—show that Orthodox authors themselves take this to be the case.
Even in his apologetic of the Palamite technique, Bishop Ware says some unusual things. For example he describes the following part of the technique:
‘Just as the aspirant in Yoga is taught to concentrate his thought in specific parts of his body, so the Hesychast concentrates his thought in the cardiac centre. While inhaling through his nose and propelling his breath down into his lungs, he makes his intellect ‘descend’ with the breath and he ‘searches’ inwardly for the place of the heart.’
This description of the technique relies on the idea that one can control the physical location of nous with one’s mind; that the Palamite method requires one to concentrate on doing so; and that this is precisely what Yoga requires one to do. Even more strangely, Ware says that if one misses the proper location for nous, one is in danger of polluting one’s mind by placing one’s nous in the entrails:
‘The beginner who, in the absence of such guidance, attempts to search for the cardiac centre, is in danger of directing his thought unawares into the area which lies immediately below the heart — into the abdomen, that is and the entrails, the effect on his prayer is disastrous, for this lower region is the source of the carnal thoughts and sensations which pollute the mind and the heart.’
You will not find any such claims in the Church Fathers, and the passages you cite from John Climacus do not make any such claims. This is the introduction of non-Christian meditative techniques.
JW: ‘RP: “3. The begginer is able to accomplish the aim of bringing nous back into the heart by controlling breathing.” Me: Note that this is for begginers. It is not the end (contrary to your assertions), but a means to the end. And again, here is St. John Climacus: “Let the remembrance of Jesus be present with each breath, and then you will know the value of stillness (hesychia)”’
The passage states that the beginner can accomplish the aim of seeing the divine energies with his physical eyes by controlling his breathing. In other words, if you control your breathing you will see the divine energies with your physical eyes. That has nothing to do with the passage you cite from Climacus which says that the utterance of Jesus’ name (either vocally or silently) must become second nature and automatic to the one praying as Climacus suggests. Climacus’s emphasis is on Jesus’ name. The emphasis in the Palamite method is on the breathing. The former is authentically Christian prayer. The latter is not more like Yoga than any authentically Christian form of prayer. This is one of the reasons Barlaam accused Palamas of heresy, and he had a good case.
JW: ‘Buddhism and Hinduism have as their aim the blanking of the mind. To eliminate all thought, and become one with the great nothingness. Hesychasm uses physical techniques to focus on continual prayer. One focuses on the meaning of the words “O Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”’
The parallels are: (i) the use of controlled breathing; and (ii) focusing one moving various spiritual energies into various parts of the body. You will find nothing like this in the Christian tradition prior to Palamas. There is nothing in Climacus about placing one’s nous in one’s heart (or navel) nor is there anything in Climacus about controlled breathing being sufficient for seeing God’s uncreated energies with one’s physical eyes. People can read Climacus and descriptions of the Palamite method and decide for themselves which is authentically Christian and which is not.
JW: ‘Indian Yogis probably bow when they pray, but we do not say that we should stop bowing because there is an outward similiarity.’
That’s because there are Christian precedents for bowing and kneeling and other postures during prayer. There are no Christian precedents for controlled breathing and the claim that anyone who controls their breathing will see God’s uncreated energies with their physical eyes.
JW: ‘But your point was to take issue with the idea that the divine light could be seen by the physical eyes of the hesychast. I’m happy to see that you have abandoned this objection.’
I never disputed the Transfiguration. It’s in the Gospels. But the Gospel description does not support Palamas’ claims about what it is that was seen.



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Fr. John Whiteford

posted August 16, 2005 at 8:54 pm


RP wrote: “You will see that they are all dressed like monks and nuns. I have yet to meet a Franciscan monk in a business suit. Maybe you’re thinking about third order Franciscans?”
Me: Here is an example:
http://www.uticaod.com/archive/2005/05/12/news/27804.html
Here is a quote:
“Renna, vice president for mission services at St. Joseph, has replaced her black and white habit with a gray business suit. She does not cover her hair, and her wooden cross is sleek and modern. The times may have changed for this sister of St. Francis, but Renna remains dedicated to the tradition of her role model.”
It has a photo of the unmonastic nuns, some with head coverings, and some without.
RP: “Anyone who wants to pass judgment on the Jesuits can just read about them and determine for themselves whether they are an order of ‘snakes’ whose activities are comparable to those of the ‘KGB.’”
Me: Yes, anyone can read about them. I suggest this as a starting point (by Philip Schaff):
http://www.ccel.org/s/schaff/encyc/encyc06/htm/iii.lvi.ix.htm
You can dismiss what I say, but the fact that Roman Catholic and Protestant governments alike saw fit to expell them for doing the things you dismiss is evidence that you have not answered.
RP: “Initially you claimed that the Catholics deliberately cooperated with the Bolsheviks in order to take advantage of the situation. You were then presented with the fact that the Catholic Church in Russia cooperated with the Orthodox rather than the Bolsheviks and did so with grave consequences for Catholics in Russia. Now you make the more moderate claim that the Pope did not condemn the persecution of the Orthodox early enough. Fine, let’s move on to this second, more moderate claim.”
Me: I did not say that the Catholic Church in Russia collaborated with the Bolsheviks. I was speaking of the Vatican itself.
RP: “First of all, what does it prove? Let us suppose that the Pope made no condemnations of the Bolsheviks at all. Does it follow that the Pope approves what the Bolsheviks are doing? No. It may simply prove that the Pope was not in the habit of making pronouncements about world events, which was generally true until recently. The Orthodox Church did not condemn the persecution of the Catholic clergy during the French Revolution. Does that mean that the Orthodox Church supported the French Revolution?”
Me: The Pope said nothing for 20 years, while the worst persecution since the days of the Roman Empire was taking place. You say that the Orthodox did not condemn what took place during the French Revolution. I don’t know if that is true or not, but I do know that the Orthodox were not negotiating with the French Revolutionaries to see what advantage they might gain from the situation. Also, communications in the 18th century were a bit more primative than there were in the 1920’s and 30’s. The Pope knew what was going on, and not only did he say or do nothing to help for 20 years, he was actively involved in negotiations with the Bolsheviks to expand Roman Catholicism in Russia while the Orthodox were being slaughtered.
This article goes into some detail on this:
http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/vatican_russia.aspx
RP: “But why wait until 1937? You will note that the large-scale killing of Orthodox Priests and laity did not begin until the 1930’s.”
Me: The large scale killing of Orthodox priest began long before that. They killed their first bishop, the Hieromartyr Vladimir, who was Metropolitan of Kiev in 1918. It got worse in the 30’s, but it is a gross distortion to say that it did not begin on a large scale long before then.
The quote you cited, said nothing about this being the begining of the large scale persecution of the Church.
See this chapter of Bishop Kallistos Ware’s “The Orthodox Church” for the facts:
http://www.uq.edu.au/~laacassi/OrthodoxChristianityandMilitantAtheism.html
JW: “I most certainly did provide evidence, and it does not appeal to scholarship ‘yet unwritten [sic.].’ My evidence was that the only cleric who participated in any war crimes was very promptly laicized and excommunicated. This is evidence against JW’s calumnious claim that the persecution of Serbs was run by the Church.”
Me: This is evidence that assumes the very thing it seeks to prove. It does not address the many documented texts that were written by non-Orthodox, non-Serbs, that say that you are glossing over history. It is clear that you will not be confused by the facts. You have not cited any texts that refute what I have said.
RP: “As evidence for my claim that the Ustashi were not at all interested in spreading Catholicism I offered as evidence the fact that their first choice was to establish a Croatian Orthodox Church—which, in fact they did—and to compel Serbs to join this Church. Why? Because their primary interest was to make those areas under their control ethnically Croatian, and Serbian ethnicity was defined above all by membership in the Serbian Orthodox Church. They believed that they could turn these people into Croatians by making them members of a Croatian Orthodox Church.”
Me: How then do you explain the 1/2 million Serbs murdered by your Catholic brethren?
See: http://jasenovac.org/exhibits/index.asp
RP: “As a side-note, Phayer makes a claim about the Papacy that is the exact opposite of the one made by JW earlier. According to Phayer, the Pope supported Nazism in the hope that they would defeat Bolshevism:”
Me: He supported the defeat of Bolshevism only after 1937.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 16, 2005 at 9:39 pm


The example you give is of a non-monastic order. It is an active order of the sort that does not exist in the Orthodox world. Catholic Monastic orders wear monastic garb.
“It got worse in the 30’s, but it is a gross distortion to say that it did not begin on a large scale long before then. The quote you cited, said nothing about this being the begining of the large scale persecution of the Church.”
You did not read carefully enough. Nor did you address the two arguments: 1. The Orthodox Church did not condemn the persecution of Catholics during the French Revolution. Does that mean that it approved this persecution. And there are many killings of Catholic clergy that no Pope mentioned in an encyclical. Does that mean that the Pope or the Vatican approved these killings of Catholic clergy?
JW: ‘This is evidence that assumes the very thing it seeks to prove. It does not address the many documented texts that were written by non-Orthodox, non-Serbs, that say that you are glossing over history. It is clear that you will not be confused by the facts. You have not cited any texts that refute what I have said.’
I addressed the facts. Please read more carefully. No historian has ever given any evidence for the claim that the Vatican helped Pavelic escape. If you look at the Pavelic Paper documents they refer only to ‘rumors’ circulating that the Vatican has taken gold stolen from Jews by the Ustashi. No one has ever given evidence to support such claims because there is no evidence. Please read the documents that were cited by me AND the documents cited by you.
JW: ‘How then do you explain the 1/2 million Serbs murdered by your Catholic brethren?’
These people were no more ‘Catholic’ than the Bolsheviks were Orthodox Christians. The Ustashe were terrorists who subscribed to an evil fascist ideology that envisioned making areas that at some point in history belonged to Croatia Croatian again. In order to do accomplish that aim they wanted to force Serbs to declare themselves as Croats by forcing them to join the Croatian Orthodox CHurch or the Greek or Roman Catholic Church. The only clergyman who was involved with the Jasenovac concentration camp was laicized and excommunicated by Church early in the war. The Ustashi were not elected but imposed on Croatia by Hitler when the elected Croatian official Vlatko Macek refused to collaborate with the Nazis. To say that the Ustashi were some sort of Vatican plot against the Orthodox is to tell a scandalous lie. This has nothing to do with either future or past histories but with the facts. There is no evidence at all that the Vatican hid Pavelic. Just read the very site that you quoted.
I’m not sure that this exchange is going anywhere. You seem to be determined to make outrageous claims about the Catholic Church no matter what the evidence. I would understand it if you were some common anti-Catholic idiot–God knows there are plenty of them out there–but you are a Priest of the Orthodox Church!



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Fr. John Whiteford

posted August 16, 2005 at 10:01 pm


RP wrote: “Of course, as an Orthodox Bishop Ware is quite sensitive about parallels between Palamite controlled breathing techniques and Yoga. Nevertheless, even he is forced to concede the striking parallels, as evidenced by the passage I cited. Bishop Ware does say that ‘The essential point in the Jesus Prayer is not the act of repetition in itself, not how we sit or breathe, but to whom we speak.’ However, that is in conflict with the actual method, which does place primacy on the controlled breathing. The texts I cited previously—from Orthodox sources—show that Orthodox authors themselves take this to be the case.”
Me: The texts you cited show no such thing. The first one was from Saint Gregory Palamas as a Hagiorite, by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, and it only stated that beginners “can” benefit from these techniques. No where does he say that it is essential, or that it is the focus. You might try actualy reading the book.
The second quote you cited was from Bishop Kallistos, whom you asserted proved your case, but who says you are wrong in the quote I provided. I also cited to you the neutral Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, which also says you are wrong.
RP: “This description of the technique relies on the idea that one can control the physical location of nous with one’s mind; that the Palamite method requires one to concentrate on doing so; and that this is precisely what Yoga requires one to do.”
Me: “Nous” means “mind”, “RP”. This is not what Yoga requires one do. Here is an example:
http://www.vibrani.com/chakras.htm
You will note that after focusing on the heart, you are to focus on you butt, then your genitals, etc.., moving up to your head, and then out of your body. You will not find any such thing in Hesychasm… in fact, just the opposite.
RP: “Even more strangely, Ware says that if one misses the proper location for nous, one is in danger of polluting one’s mind by placing one’s nous in the entrails: ‘The beginner who, in the absence of such guidance, attempts to search for the cardiac centre, is in danger of directing his thought unawares into the area which lies immediately below the heart — into the abdomen, that is and the entrails, the effect on his prayer is disastrous, for this lower region is the source of the carnal thoughts and sensations which pollute the mind and the heart.’”
Me: You laugh, like Barlaam, because you are ignorant of the ascetic tradition. Your spirituality is purely in the head. Hesychasm promotes the prayer of the heart. The ascetics give advice, such as Bishop Kallistos, based on more than a millenia of practical experience.
RP: “You will not find any such claims in the Church Fathers, and the passages you cite from John Climacus do not make any such claims. This is the introduction of non-Christian meditative techniques.”
Me: So you assert, but you offer no historical evidence that this is the case. You base your arguments solely on superficial parallels, that you have only superficially examined.
RP: “The passage states that the beginner can accomplish the aim of seeing the divine energies with his physical eyes by controlling his breathing.”
Me: It does not. That is like saying that because you take the SAT, you will receive a degree. Not exactly.
RP: “In other words, if you control your breathing you will see the divine energies with your physical eyes. That has nothing to do with the passage you cite from Climacus which says that the utterance of Jesus’ name (either vocally or silently) must become second nature and automatic to the one praying as Climacus suggests. Climacus’s emphasis is on Jesus’ name. The emphasis in the Palamite method is on the breathing. The former is authentically Christian prayer. The latter is not more like Yoga than any authentically Christian form of prayer. This is one of the reasons Barlaam accused Palamas of heresy, and he had a good case.”
Me: You assert all this in complete contradiction to all the evidence. Going back to the text from Metropolitan Hierotheos, that you claim as your evidence here, he says the following:
“We have made this analysis in order to emphasise that on the Holy Mountain both during the period when St. Gregory Palamas was living and in our time, as well as in every part of the world where the Orthodox Tradition is lived in the right way, there are these stages of spiritual perfection. Everyone who comes to the Holy Mountain in order to live in seclusion begins by purifying his heart, and this comes about and is completed through deep repentance. After this he progresses to the illumination of his nous, which is unceasing inner noetic prayer. At such time as God wills, the person can also attain the vision of God.”
You cited the text you did, because you obviously searched for the word “breathing”, and you found the one instance in the entire chapter in which it was even mentioned, and then as a tool for beginners. Yet, on this basis, you assert that this proves that the breathing technique is the very center of the whole of hesychasm. This is complete rubbish. You haven’t read the text, you were simply mining it for quotes, and this is the best you could come up with to support your ignorantly preconceived notions on the matter.
St. John Climacus does in fact talk about the connection of hesychasm with breathing, and also the need for the hesychast to focus inwardly in his body:
“A hesychast is he who strives to confine his incorporeal being within his bodily house, paradoxical as this is” (step 27:6).
He does not go into step by step techniques, but he was not responding to a scoffer like Barlaam, who was attacking these techniques. Based on your logic, one would have to assume that the early Church did not venerate icons, because one find very little about it until those who disputed this practice came on the scene.
RP: “I never disputed the Transfiguration. It’s in the Gospels. But the Gospel description does not support Palamas’ claims about what it is that was seen.”
Me: You repeated Barlaam’s assertion that the physical eye cannot see the divine light, and then agreed that the apostles had seen the divine light with their physical eyes.



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Fr. John Whiteford

posted August 16, 2005 at 10:25 pm


RP: “The example you give is of a non-monastic order. It is an active order of the sort that does not exist in the Orthodox world. Catholic Monastic orders wear monastic garb.”
Me: Are you a Jesuit yourself? Your willingness to be completely dishonest in defense of your position is Jesuitical (which according to Webster’s dictionary means “one given to intrigue or equivocation.” Wonder how that got into the dictionary, huh?)
You just said Franciscans always wear monastic garb. You previously said that they were an “active” order. Now you dismiss the fact that you have a photo of that which you say doesn’t happen, by asserting that which contradicts your previous assertion.
Show me a Franciscan prior to Vatican II, who as a standard matter of practice, ran around in secular attire. You can’t. Concede the point.
RP: “You did not read carefully enough. Nor did you address the two arguments: 1. The Orthodox Church did not condemn the persecution of Catholics during the French Revolution.”
Me: You did not read carefully enough. I addressed that very point.
RP: ” Does that mean that it approved this persecution. And there are many killings of Catholic clergy that no Pope mentioned in an encyclical. Does that mean that the Pope or the Vatican approved these killings of Catholic clergy?”
Me: Show me where Catholic clergy were killed in mass over a period of 20 years (and 20 years in which this was clearly known to the Pope), in which the Pope remained silent.
RP: “I addressed the facts. Please read more carefully. No historian has ever given any evidence for the claim that the Vatican helped Pavelic escape. If you look at the Pavelic Paper documents they refer only to ‘rumors’ circulating that the Vatican has taken gold stolen from Jews by the Ustashi. No one has ever given evidence to support such claims because there is no evidence. Please read the documents that were cited by me AND the documents cited by you.”
Here is hard evidence. A declassified CIA document, reporting on Pavelic’s whereabouts in 1947… which were in the Vatican:
http://www.pavelicpapers.com/documents/pavelic/ap0027.html
And also this report from another CIA agent:
http://www.pavelicpapers.com/documents/pavelic/ap0018.html
And this one:
http://www.pavelicpapers.com/documents/pavelic/ap0022.html
JW: “These people were no more ‘Catholic’ than the Bolsheviks were Orthodox Christians.”
Me: The Bolsheviks tried to destroy the Orthodox Church. The Ustashe never tried to destroy the Roman Catholic Church, but instead collaborated with them, and then helped the guilty escape after the war.
RP: “There is no evidence at all that the Vatican hid Pavelic. Just read the very site that you quoted.”
Me: No evidence that you wish to deal with, at least.
RP: “I’m not sure that this exchange is going anywhere. You seem to be determined to make outrageous claims about the Catholic Church no matter what the evidence. I would understand it if you were some common anti-Catholic idiot–God knows there are plenty of them out there–but you are a Priest of the Orthodox Church!”
Me: This discussion began with you attacking the Orthodox Church. I do not blame the average Roman Catholic for the corruption of their Church, and so do not usually focus on this issues, but raised them only in response to your attacks on the Orthodox. For example, you spoke of the Orthodox persecution of Roman Catholics — and knowing the actual history, I won’t let that pass. You raised the issue, and so please don’t whine about being engaged on the subject.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 16, 2005 at 11:32 pm


JW: ‘The Ustashe never tried to destroy the Roman Catholic Church, but instead collaborated with them’
Again the claim that the Catholic CHurch ran the Ustashi regime and the persecutions perpetrated by the Ustashi. You have given no evidence to support that claim and neither has anyone else.
JW: ‘You just said Franciscans always wear monastic garb.’
I said Franciscan monks–i.e. those Franciscan orders that are at least in part contemplative–wear monastic garb. There is not just one Franciscan order but many, each with its charisms and rules.
JW: ‘Show me a Franciscan prior to Vatican II, who as a standard matter of practice, ran around in secular attire. You can’t. Concede the point.’
You said that Catholic monastics wear civilian clothing. That was the charge I answered. Your claim was that, unlike Orthodox monastic orders, Catholic monastic orders allow their monks and nuns to wear business suits. And no I’m not a Jesuit, but I guess that since you ask you must believe that I am a snake who works for the KGB.
JW: ‘Show me where Catholic clergy were killed in mass over a period of 20 years (and 20 years in which this was clearly known to the Pope), in which the Pope remained silent.’
The Pope has NEVER made specific condemnation of the killings of Catholic priests in Yugoslavia, Latvia, Lithuania, China, Vietnam, Nazi Poland, and a whole host of other countries.
Let us look at JW’s Pavelic evidence.
1. http://www.pavelicpapers.com/documents/pavelic/ap0027.html
‘These agents have received the following impression of PAVELIC’s contact with the VATICAN.PAVELIC’s contacts are so high and his present position is so compromising to the VATICAN, that any extradition of Subject would deal a staggering blow to the Roman Catholic Church.’
2. http://www.pavelicpapers.com/documents/pavelic/ap0018.html
‘Reliable Vatican source reports Subject still living in Rome in a religious institute located in the Prati District, with extra territorial rights and in possession of a passport made out to a Minister of Religion Subject soon will leave for Spain from Genoa with no intentions of going to the Argentine’
3. http://www.pavelicpapers.com/documents/pavelic/ap0022.html
‘Reference is made to SOI No. 5109, your office, dated 9 June 1947, which indicates information to the effect that Subject is reported living in Rome on the second floor of the Via Giacomo Veneziano, 17, stairway “C”.’
Not one of these documents records any direct evidence of Pavelic being seen in Rome, let alone in the Vatican. 1. reports an ‘impression’ that an agent’s contacts had. 2. is a report of a ‘reliable Vatican source’ and 3. is a reference to something that ‘indicates information to the effect’ that Pavelic is living in an apartment at an address different from that reported in 2. The Vatican has denied hiding Pavelic and hiding stolen gold from Pavelic. There is a lawsuit pending so the evidence will be given a hearing in court.
JW: ‘you spoke of the Orthodox persecution of Roman Catholics’
Yes let’s get back to the initial claim, concerning the persecution of Catholics by the Orthodox Church. Unfortunately that’s not a matter of history but the present. For a rather diplomatic account of by a cleric on the ground you can read the following from Thaddaeus Kondrusiewicz: http://www.catholic.net/RCC/Periodicals/Faith/1998-03-04/russia.html
I have personally met with Catholic clergy from Russia and the stories they tell are cause for alarm and it’s only getting worse. I pray that it does not turn more sinister.
JW: ‘This discussion began with you attacking the Orthodox Church’
I did not ‘attack’ the Orthodox Church. I merely responded to your comments to John Farrell. I made no false allegation or disparaging remark about the Orthodox Church and never would.
JW: ‘don’t whine about being engaged on the subject’
It’s one thing to be engaged, it’s quite another to talk about ‘back-stabbing low down snakes in the grass’ and alleged Vatican plots to exterminate Orthodox Christians. That sort of language is always disturbing, but especially so when it comes from a member of the Orthodox clergy in good standing.



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Fr. John Whiteford

posted August 17, 2005 at 8:18 am


RP wrote: “Again the claim that the Catholic CHurch ran the Ustashi regime and the persecutions perpetrated by the Ustashi. You have given no evidence to support that claim and neither has anyone else.”
Me: The claim is that the Roman Catholic Church collaborated with the Ustashe regime, and I have given you plenty of evidence of that, you just choose to ignore it.
RP: “You said that Catholic monastics wear civilian clothing. That was the charge I answered. Your claim was that, unlike Orthodox monastic orders, Catholic monastic orders allow their monks and nuns to wear business suits.”
Me: I never said that they all did, I said that you have those who do, and this is tolerated. This was not tolerated only 70 years ago. This is a distortion of the monastic tradition that is relatively recent, and shows a serious decline in your own spirituality. You also have generally lost touch with any of the daily offices other than the mass, and the mass has itself been distorted, dumbed down, and adulterated.
You have clown masses now. Do you need the photos for me to prove it? What a blasphemy!
RP: “The Pope has NEVER made specific condemnation of the killings of Catholic priests in Yugoslavia, Latvia, Lithuania, China, Vietnam, Nazi Poland, and a whole host of other countries.”
Me: Give me the numbers and the time frames for each, and then tell me if they come close to twenty years of the hell the Bolsheviks dished out on the Orthodox prior to the Pope saying anything.
RP: “Not one of these documents records any direct evidence of Pavelic being seen in Rome, let alone in the Vatican.”
Me: Nonsense. This is again Jesuitical. The CIA tracked his movements in Rome between 1945 and 1947. They knew where he was and who was helping him. The agent writing the report was citing CIA sources, identified as reliable.
RP: “The Vatican has denied hiding Pavelic and hiding stolen gold from Pavelic. There is a lawsuit pending so the evidence will be given a hearing in court.”
Me: I hope you will be willing to pay attention to the evidence.
RP: “Yes let’s get back to the initial claim, concerning the persecution of Catholics by the Orthodox Church. Unfortunately that’s not a matter of history but the present. For a rather diplomatic account of by a cleric on the ground you can read the following from Thaddaeus Kondrusiewicz: http://www.catholic.net/RCC/Periodicals/Faith/1998-03-04/russia.html
Me: How many Roman Catholic priests have been taken out and shot by the Orthodox in the last 10 years?
0Therefore, there is no comparrison with the 1/2 million Serbs your Croatian Catholic (not Atheist Communist) brethren slaughtered.
RP: “I have personally met with Catholic clergy from Russia and the stories they tell are cause for alarm and it’s only getting worse. I pray that it does not turn more sinister.”
Me: The Russian government is not an Orthodox government. It is certainly more favorable to the Orthodox than it was 20 years ago, but the Orthodox are still trying to get back all their property too, and haven’t.
RP: “I did not ‘attack’ the Orthodox Church. I merely responded to your comments to John Farrell. I made no false allegation or disparaging remark about the Orthodox Church and never would.”
Me: Here is what you said before I posted a word on this forum:
“The Orthodox are a puckish bunch. Very ready to tweak the noses of the Catlics but also very ready to cry foul when the Catlics tweak back. Ask Catholics in Russia, they’ll tell you all about it. And no the Pope does not approve this post.”
Here is what you said in your first post to me, in which you opened up the subject of persecution and monasticism:
“Orthodoxy is pretty good at persecuting Catholics and Protestants but it isn’t really contributing very much to the major battles that Christianity is fighting against the secular culture these days…. And if you want to do Yoga, I suppose Palamas might be your cup of tea.”
RP: “It’s one thing to be engaged, it’s quite another to talk about ‘back-stabbing low down snakes in the grass’ and alleged Vatican plots to exterminate Orthodox Christians.”
Me: The meaning of the word “Isuit” in Russian is an objective fact, and it didn’t come from nowhere. Likewise the english word “Jesuitical” didn’t come from nowhere either. “Franciscan” does not have a similiar conotation… why do you suppose that is?
You totally pass by the entry from Philip Schaff’s New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, on the Jesuits that I referenced.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 17, 2005 at 9:10 am


Father John you have accuded the Vatican of secret plots to kill large numbers of Orthodox Christian clergy and laity. You have accused the Vatican of hiding war criminals on the basis of flimsy evidence and when the Vatican has repudiated those accusations. You have called Catholic wome religious ‘butch nuns.’ You have called Catholic men religious ‘snakes’ and compared their missionary work, for which many were martyred, with the activities of the KGB. If anything ‘puckish’ was an understatement.
If anyone is still reading this they can just scroll up and assess the arguments.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 17, 2005 at 10:30 am


JW: ‘You repeated Barlaam’s assertion that the physical eye cannot see the divine light, and then agreed that the apostles had seen the divine light with their physical eyes.’
Barlaam denied that the physical eye can see ‘uncreated energies’ of God. There is no mention of ‘uncreated energies’ in the Gospel. Barlaam claimed that the light seen is not itself God or an uncreated energy of God but that it is a created substance. There has been only one incarnation of God–Christ. A physical light or a burning bush cannot be an incarnation of God. Therefore, Palamas was claiming that one can see something non-physical–an energeia or activity of a non-incarnate God–with one’s physical eyes. Barlaam had a problem with this contradictory implication of Palamas’ claims and so do I. But if you want to side with Palamas zdrastvuy.
Two additional problems are (i) that advocates of the Palamite method claim that one can see the uncreated energies of God by doing something to one’s body–namely controlling breathing; and (ii) that they claim that one can, by meditating, change the location of one’s nous [intellect, mind] and place it in one’s heart, but that the untrained meditator risks accidentally placing the nous in the entrails, thus subjecting oneself to base passions. These are very strange claims about what one can do by meditating that go beyond the traditional Christian understanding of prayer. But again, if that’s your cup of tea go for it. Just make sure to avoid the entrails.
The Catholic Church is harassed in Russia not by the state but by the Orthodox Church. Any state action against the Church was initiated by the Church. This is very much the persecution of one Church by another. I suppose that we should be thankful that, as you have said, no priest was shot.
You continue to claim that the Catholic Church actively supported the Ustashe regime, in spite of evidence to the contrary. You continue to claim that the Vatican hid Pavelic on the basis of dubious evidence and in spite of the Vatican’s denial. The Pope and Vatican diplomats spoke out against the Ustashe. The Archbishop of Zagreb spoke out against the Ustashe. The only member of the Catholic clergy involved in war crimes was immediately laicized and excommunicated. Everything that the Church could have done in response to the Ustashe they did. The Ustashe were a fascist terrorist group organized by Mussolini and imposed on Croatia by Hitler when the legitimately elected leaders of Croatia refused to collaborate with Hitler. Yet you continue to insist that this was somehow a war of the Catholic Church against the Orthodox. Here are two articles that address your charges and others that have been made against the Church:
http://catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=3098
http://www.catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=513
You continue to point to the Vatican’s ‘failure’ to address the Bolshevik killings of Orthodox clergy in a papal encyclical as evidence that the Vatican secretly cheered on the Bolsheviks or even worse conspired with them. I have addressed this claim at length above. The most problematic fact for your conspiracy theory is that the Catholic Church in Russia cooperated quite actively with the Orthodox, with tragic consequences to Catholics. If, as you say, the Vatican’s aim was to have as many Orthodox killed as possible, it was not coordinating well with its underlings on the ground.
Mazel tov.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 17, 2005 at 10:50 am


‘You have clown masses now. Do you need the photos for me to prove it? What a blasphemy!’
Yes those ‘Masses’ were blasphemous. But the idiots doing these masses violated the Church’s prescriptions about legitimate masses. Clown masses are not tolerated practice in the Church. It would be like saying that because one Orthodox monk crucified a nun who talked back to him this is now accepted practice in Orthodoxy.
JW: ‘I never said that they all did, I said that you have those who do, and this is tolerated. This was not tolerated only 70 years ago. This is a distortion of the monastic tradition that is relatively recent, and shows a serious decline in your own spirituality.’
For the upteenth time, the orders that allow civilian clothing are not MONASTIC orders. Catholic MONASTIC orders do not wear business suits. The orders you are talking about are active orders of the sort that do not exist in the Orthodox Church so they cannot be compared with something Orthodox.
‘shows a serious decline in your own spirituality’
At most it shows a decline in the spirituality of the orders that allow civilian clothing. Again, those orders were never contemplative but always primarily involved with things like education, health care, scholarship, etc.
Here you can see what Catholic MONASTIC orders look like:
http://www.carmelitehermits.org/CarmSisDCJ.htm
You will notice that they are not wearing business suits.



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John E

posted August 17, 2005 at 4:57 pm


Yes those ‘Masses’ were blasphemous. But the idiots doing these masses violated the Church’s prescriptions about legitimate masses. Clown masses are not tolerated practice in the Church.
But, RP, the fact that they are performed, and no concrete action is taken to stop them from being performed, does seem to mean that they are tolerated (along with the dozens of other liturgical abuses which are commonplace in AmChurch).
You have appealed several times in this thread to the “common teaching authority” of the Catholic Church (the Papacy) as a virtue which the Orthodox lack. My question is, what good is your “common teaching authority” doing you as a communion? Yes, liturgical abuses are “illicit”–but they are everywhere to be seen. Yes, remarriage after divorce is not allowed–but annulments are given out like Halloween candy. Yes, birth control is defined as a mortal sin–but fewer than a quarter of American Catholics obey that teaching, and they are enabled by parish clergy (and even some bishops) who don’t really care what the Vatican says. Add to this widespread disbelief in the doctrine of the Eucharist, entrenched neopagan feminism in many religious orders and dioceses, and the syncretism which has already been commented on by Fr. John, and you have a big mess, as far as I’m concerned.
We just witnessed the end of a Papacy which has been praised to the skies by conservatives–and yet for more than a quarter century, JPII did nothing more concrete than to write a couple of encyclicals to rein in dissent and loopiness in the Catholic Church. There are more than a few conservative Catholics who feel let down by this. In fact, JPII contributed in his own way to the Culture of Lunacy: observe, for instance, his blasphemous acts of venerating the Koran and being blessed by pagan priestesses, etc.
We Orthodox have our own problems, to be sure, but doctrinal and liturgical chaos are much more characteristic of Catholicism. So again, what good is this “common teaching authority” when it has been a manifest failure since Vatican II?



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reluctant penitent

posted August 17, 2005 at 7:14 pm


JE: ‘the fact that they are performed, and no concrete action is taken to stop them from being performed, does seem to mean that they are tolerated’
The reasoning here is: ‘No one in authority stopped a cleric from doing X. Therefore those in authority approve X.’ If we apply the same reasoning then it must mean that the Orthodox Church approves of Monks crucifying nuns.
JE: ‘dozens of other liturgical abuses which are commonplace in AmChurch’
You and I have not been attending the same churches.
JE: ‘Yes, birth control is defined as a mortal sin–but fewer than a quarter of American Catholics obey that teaching, and they are enabled by parish clergy (and even some bishops) who don’t really care what the Vatican says.’
Have you seen the abortion rates in Greece, Russia, Bulgaria? If we apply your reasoning then episcopal authority in the Orthodox Church is non-existent. The authority I had in mind was the magisterial authority. People are always going to sin, but it’s a bigger problem when you have 10 different answers to the question ‘Is X sinful according to the Orthodox Church?’ In that respect Orthodoxy is not in much better shape than Protestantism.
‘annulments are given out like Halloween candy’
That is an exaggeration. The Catholic Church is the only Church that takes seriously Christ’s words ‘whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery’ (Matthew 5:32). That is but one of the numerous reasons I am Catholic.
‘birth control is defined as a mortal sin–but fewer than a quarter of American Catholics obey that teaching, and they are enabled by parish clergy (and even some bishops) who don’t really care what the Vatican says’
One quarter is quite high given the strict demands required of those practising NFP. It’s still better than licking your finger and seeing which way the secular culture blows. The Orthodox Church cannot get its faithful to obey even its flexible moral theology. Just look at the abortion rates in Greece.
‘widespread disbelief in the doctrine of the Eucharist’
The doctrine of the Eucharist is a difficult one. Orthodox Christians have as much trouble with it as Catholics.
‘entrenched neopagan feminism in many religious orders’
The youngest and most vibrant orders are very orthodox.
‘yet for more than a quarter century, JPII did nothing more concrete than to write a couple of encyclicals to rein in dissent and loopiness in the Catholic Church’
I have a much more positive evaluation of JPII’s papacy. In particular JPII inspired a whole new generation of very orthodox Catholics who are now revitalizing the Church.
‘are more than a few conservative Catholics who feel let down by this.’
There are more than a few Catholics–liberal and conservative–who would feel let down about many things. Catholics like to argue. Just read this blog. You’ll notice though that they’re still Catholics.
‘the syncretism which has already been commented on by Fr. John’
Syncretism has been a part of Orthodoxy for some time. Just look at what Palamas said about meditating your nous into your heart. There’s nothing Christian about his meditative techniques.
‘his blasphemous acts of venerating the Koran ‘
A moving act of Christian charity. I haven’t yet met a Catholic who now thinks that the Koran is the word of God as a result of JPII’s gesture.
‘doctrinal and liturgical chaos are much more characteristic of Catholicism’
I see much more doctrinal chaos in the Orthodox Church. By the ‘chaos’ in the liturgy I take it you mean the Novus Ordo Mass. It may be less deferential to the tradition than the Tridentine Mass–though that’s changing–but it’s still a valid Mass. I have no doubt that I am partaking of the Eucharist in the Church established by Christ himself when he said ‘you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’ (Matt. 16:18). Obedience to Christ is more important than aesthetically pleasant 4-part harmony.



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Fr. John Whiteford

posted August 17, 2005 at 8:37 pm


RP: Wrote, regarding the Pope venerating a copy of the Koran:
“A moving act of Christian charity. I haven’t yet met a Catholic who now thinks that the Koran is the word of God as a result of JPII’s gesture.”
Me: And so why would offering a pinch of incense to an idol not be a gesture of love to the pagans?
Whatever you say now, I am sure that if the Pope did such a thing, you would argue that adopt that very position.
It is obvious that you will defend anything the Roman Catholic Church has ever done, regardless of the facts or how ridiculous your defense may be. If you were able to bring yourself to concede even a few obvious points, then at least talking to you might be worth while, because that would indicate some willingness to be honest with the facts. But such is not the case.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 17, 2005 at 9:03 pm


God bless you too Father.



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Steve in Vista

posted December 19, 2005 at 3:55 pm


It is just about Jesus. True enough. The problem is that those words could come from the mouth of St. Paul or Simon Magus with absolutely different and absolutely eternally diametrically opposed meanings. Correct doctrine and prayer governed thereby in its form and a life lived according to correct doctrine are of primary importance in any real confession of Jesus Christ as Lord and therefore Saviour.



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