Rod Dreher’s Confusing Ecclesiology

I like Rod. Always have. But I have never understood his baffling and completely inconsistent ecclesiology. He left the Catholic communion for Orthodoxy, having come to conclusion that the claims of the papacy were false and in sharp reaction to the priest abuse scandals.

However, such scandals are just as present in Orthodoxy. Yet Rod spends most of his scandal coverage time on Catholic scandals, not those in his own communion. Okay. Fair enough. The Catholic Church is bigger news and most Americans have never heard of the Orthodox (sorry, but that’s just a fact, abundantly borne out by the Protestant and post-Protestant rhetoric about how “Rome” invented the Eucharist, and “Mary worship” and a dozen other features of apostolic teaching Catholics and Orthdox have in common).

But here’s the thing: when Rod covers Rome, it is abundantly clear that his theology of the Church is way out in left field for somebody who is supposed to be Orthodox. Case in point, this latest in a long line of papal power play fantasies in which Francis (as both JPII and Benedict were fantasized to do) kick ass and take names and start exercising that raw papal dictatorial power to just boot out large portions of the Church.

This utterly ultramontane vision of the papacy is about as far as you can get from what the Orthodox believe or want the bishop of Rome to be. But if anything is a fixture of Rod’s writing about the Pope, it is his dream of a Pope turning, not just to the Curia, but to a large percentage of the world’s bishops and saying “You! Out!” with the “stroke of a pen.” Nothing on earth could be a less Orthodox conception of, or hope for, the bishop of Rome. So I don’t get why Rod, in becoming Orthodox, has retained an ultramontane view of the papacy.

Personally, I think the deathless fantasy of Traditionalists that, this time for sure, the pope is finally going to get his Innocent III on and start purging the Church of the Impure is the #1 symptom of the bubble of unreality in which Traditionalists far too often live. They need to cope with the fact that Ut Unum Sint (seriously, read it) was not JPII’s personal opinion but a teaching letter of the Church and that it has charted a course for the Pope away from these fantasies of a Pontiff who kicks ass and takes names. But with Catholic Traditionalists, there is at least the consistency of harking back to a tradition that included Innocent III and Julius II. But I cannot fathom converting to a tradition that specifically repudiates the notion of the Pope as Universal Shepherd and then longing for him to do exactly when that tradition says is neither lawful nor advisable.

  • Dustin

    The only consistency I can locate is that Rod sees Latin Rite Catholicism as equivalent to a patriarchate. Which it is, sort of. Though Benedict retired the title “Patriarch of the West,” the Pope is the head of his own sui juris church in addition to his claim of universal primacy. The Bishop of Rome, then, in his patriarchal capacity, would have plenary authority within his patriarchate (i.e., Western Catholicism) to, as Rod says, “bring it.” The Eastern conception of this power would not permit him, however, to similarly interfere in the other sui juris churches. I don’t read Rod often, so I have no idea what he has to say about the jurisdictional status of the Eastern Catholics. Hopefully he isn’t as scornful of them as the Orthodox so often are.

    • Dustin

      But, jeez. You probably know all that, having been arguing with Rod on this same topic for years, it seems. As if you needed any of this explained to you. I’m not even a canonist and don’t know all the proper canonical terms. I’m just your average, dumb blog commenter who thinks that a few minutes of checking Wikipedia and newadvent.org makes me an expert on something. Eesh.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

    Having been a Catholic, Rod should probably understand this sort of stuff better than the average Protestant (like me). Many Protestants do indeed have the impressions that, as head of the RCC, the pope has the same power of church discipline that every church has. That is why we tend to find it peculiar that there isn’t more, well, *discipline* coming from the Vatican.

    I also think it leads to other confusions too. For example, I can’t count how many times I heard conservative Catholics complain that the media was surprised to find “the pope is Catholic” because he opposes abortion and same-sex marriage. But why in the world should the media assume that being Catholic requires holding such views as opposing abortion and same-sex marriage? After all, they see Biden, Pelosi, the Kennedys, and hundreds of other Catholics disagree on those issues and the Church doesn’t seem to care. It certainly gives the impression that being Catholic does not require any sort of doctrinal fidelity.

    Sure we all know that the Church has the power to excommunicate someone. But how often is that done? For most outside observers, if Joe Biden is not worthy of excommunication then what does it really mean to say that someone is “Catholic?”

    Again, I’m an outsider and not trying to tell Catholics how they should run their communion. But I think that a lot of Catholics should try to look at the situation from the perspective of those on the outside to get a better understanding of why people think the way they do about the Church.

    • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

      “But why in the world should the media assume that being Catholic requires holding such views as opposing abortion and same-sex marriage?”

      I think this question is very much on point. And it isn’t just the media looking at Biden, Pelosi, and the Kennedys. There are plenty of Roman Catholics *in* the media who tell their non-Catholics confreres — and their readers and viewers — that being Catholic doesn’t require … well, anything, when you get down to it, other than self-identification.

      • Rosemarie

        +J.M.J+

        >>>There are plenty of Roman Catholics *in* the media who tell their non-Catholics confreres — and their readers and viewers — that being Catholic doesn’t require … well, anything, when you get down to it, other than self-identification.

        When I was in Catholic high school, some of our Religion teachers told us that one could be a “good Catholic” and still use contraception, not believe in the Virgin Birth or (insert Catholic dogma here)… etc. I’m sure lots of other Catholic kids were fed that kind of nonsense while growing up in the 70s and 80s and are now parroting it to others. That’s probably the basis of the confusion.

      • Dan C

        Why wouldn’t the media assume the Church disagrees with a junta who wantonly oppressed its people?

        That wasn’t your question. Why is that?

        The Church did not excommunicate those folks either. Not the enabler Pio Laghi (and he rose in the Church) nor the Argentinian bishops who clearly scandalized the Church with the near universal backing of the military and the junta.

        There were, at this time, plenty of support for these sins in the highest levels of the Latin American Church and in the Vatican’s foreign service.

        These are activities not exactly unsupported still by many on the American right, so…let’s be clear as to the fact that wanton murder, even if done by a dictatorship by the US, is still murder and sinful.

        The Church acts prudently, or those who promote preventative war or these types of evil acts such as was supported in South America would also be swept out the door.

        May our Churches be filled with sinners as opposed to empty and dusty.

        • http://wwrtc.blogspot.com Art Deco

          The Church did not excommunicate those folks either. Not the enabler Pio Laghi (and he rose in the Church) nor the Argentinian bishops who clearly scandalized the Church with the near universal backing of the military and the junta.

          Just out of curiosity, Dan C., can you define how ‘near universal backing’ is manifested in the everyday world? Did you have parish priests signing public proclamations?

          That aside, among those who welcomed the March 1976 military coup was someone very much involved in public life, which few clergymen are: Jacobo Timerman, editor of La Opinion and later a memoir of his years as a political prisoner (Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number). There was a reason for that. The country was in a state of chaos and the political class was unwilling or unable to make use of available legal means to restore public order.

    • cermak_rd

      I’m not sure Biden is a particularly good example though. As Vice President, he is not in a position to actually do anything. He only takes votes on ties in the Senate (and I don’t think he has so voted on anything the Church opposes), and even at that , there is some controversy as to whether or not just voting is enough cooperation with evil to stand up in a canonical court.

      Also, the Church counts all baptized people as Catholics (even me and I bolted back in 2004). All baptized Catholics are to abide by the requirement of having the Church involved in their wedding for instance (either by direct witnessing or via dispensation). So given that claiming by the Church itself over all its members, wandering or not, it leaves itself open to having people it would rather not claim it!

  • http://thecrawfordfamily.net/blog Ken Crawford

    I don’t follow Rod, particularly lately, but if I remember from back when it was big news that he moved over to Orthodoxy, a big part of why he was disgusted with Catholicism was that the Pope *wasn’t* kicking butt and taking names, purging the Church of all the evil that has been giving us such a bad rep. While he may not have said it that way, it seemed to me at the time that he was rejecting the Pope for for what he is, but for it not being what he wanted it to be… and it doesn’t look like that changed.

  • Dan C

    I would suggest the Catholic right wing, who really really wanted the cafeteria closed in 2005, would, after “experimenting” with libertarian economics (Acton), torture (Sirico and Arroyo), and preventative war (Weigel and Neuhaus) would really want to tone down the “kick them all out” discussion.

    Catholicism believes many things.

  • Brennan

    I would suggest the Catholic right wing, who really really wanted the cafeteria closed in 2005, would, after “experimenting” with libertarian economics (Acton), torture (Sirico and Arroyo), and preventative war (Weigel and Neuhaus) would really want to tone down the “kick them all out” discussion.

    Traditionalists (as opposed to Catholic right wing conservatives) are much more likely to be distributists and oppose the Iraq war.

  • Clare Krishan

    Newsflash: Bergoglio’s a crunchycon
    (he share’s Rod’s favorite movie:
    10. His favourite film is Babette’s Feast“http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/the-pope/9931413/Pope-Francis-20-things-you-didnt-know.html
    chuckle !)

  • Clare Krishan

    Newsflash II: SPF celebrates the eastern rite Liturgy of St John Crysostom (in Spanish for immigrant slavs presumably, what will Rod say about that?)
    http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/2079/ukrainian_catholic_patriarch_pope_francis_knows_our_tradition_very_well_as_well_as_our_liturgy.aspx
    That One Lung breathes air from both hemispheres too: North and South!

    • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

      Not only did he celebrate the rite but he also was set the task to be ordinary for all eastern catholics in Argentina who did not have their own hierarchs in country. Thus he’s probably quite well equipped to strike at the SSPX’s real weakness as claimed defenders of tradition, their promotion of the Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat and their stand for latinisation and betrayal of the acts of union that largely created the eastern catholic churches in the first place.

  • bob

    Maybe the late great Bill Buckley? Years ago (I can’t recall the exact context) he said there’s nothing wrong with the Church that a good inquisition can’t fix. I’d apply that to any church. Rod wasn’t THAT threatening.
    I wish I had made a lung pun like Clare. Rats.

  • dianeski

    Rod’s an unreconstructed Protestant, ever engaged in the chimerical Protestant quest for the Perfectly Pure Church.

    As the husband of a church-hopping friend once said to her, “If you ever find The Perfect Church, they won’t have you as a member.”

    Exactly.

    I am convinced that Rod never really got Catholicism in the first place. As someone said up above, he always wanted the papacy to meet his expectations — to be what he conceived it should be. This is quintessentially Protestant. And utterly hopeless.

  • Tom R

    Rod has a point.
    Suppose you or I, westernised Anglos, were to visit – say – Singapore. We consider the place very centralized and restrictive, but are told that all the regulation and the surveillance is necessary and justified to deal with crime.
    But suppose you then notice that it’s not safe to walk the streets after dark, and that your car keeps getting stolen.
    So you then conclude “I wouldn’t myself accept this much centralization in return for greater discipline, though other people l know and respect might consider that a fair tradeoff. But what’s the point of accepting centralization when you don’t get the tougher discipline in return for it?”
    I’d read Rod Dreher’s plaint in the same light.

  • dianeski

    Tom R, that dog won’t hunt.

    We could just as well turn it around and say, “What’s the point of accepting stricter fasting rules, chaotic governance, ethnic ghetto-ism, and an hour-long drive to the nearest Orthodox church if all we get in return are the same sex-abuse problems, the same Lavender Mafia, the same push for modernism that we left behind in Catholicism?”

    Because that’s exactly the situation.

    • http://wwrtc.blogspot.com Art Deco

      I doubt it is as bad. The Eastern Catholic Churches in this country have largely been spared embarrassments.

      • dianeski

        Oh Art! I wish that were true. Ask Eastern Catholic William Tighe about coverups by Eastern Catholic Eparchs. Not pretty, alas!

  • http://easternchristianbooks.blogspot.com Adam DeVille

    I’ve written about Catholic AND Orthodox ecclesiology on the question of the pope in more detail than anyone else in English, so permit me immodestly to intrude a few thoughts here. For elaboration, see my book *Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy* from University of Notre Dame Press, 2011: http://www.amazon.com/Orthodoxy-Roman-Papacy-Prospects-East-West/dp/0268026076/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363364950&sr=8-1&keywords=adam+deville

    In a sense, both Mark and Rod are right. Rod is right that the pope does indeed have the powers Rod describes. But Mark correctly notes that the popes, since Vatican II, have felt themselves constrained (de facto, but not de iure, a crucial distinction here and perhaps the source of the disagreement) by the doctrine of collegiality not to exercise that power in an “ultramontane” way. So it remains a strange situation: the pope can act, but usually doesn’t. I’m with Rod in thinking that the pope should act in the case of abuse and other major sins. If such power exists, it is surely designed for precisely these circumstances. As I have repeatedly shown elsewhere, a glancing familiarity with all the disciplinary canons of all the councils, East and West, local, regional, and ecumenical, from the first through the second millennium, would show a unanimous verdict that anyone guilty of any sexual sin, no matter how minor, no matter if it were between consenting adults, must be deposed from office, degraded from holy orders, and never again allowed to hold any office, even doorkeeper, in the Church. Why do we think we can hold ourselves aloof from such strict standards today?

    As for what Orthodox ecclesiology holds, and what Orthodoxy believes about episcopal power and papal primacy, there is, as I show in more detail than anyone else has done, no one set “Orthodox” position: there is a diversity of views. Mark needs to be careful in making these assumptions about “Orthodoxy.” Some Orthodox churches are quite “decentralized” but some are extremely centralized. If you read, e.g., the 1945 statutes of the Russian Church (modified, but only somewhat, in 2000), you see that the Patriarch of Moscow had vast, virtually unchecked powers (unchecked, that is, by other bishops, but Stalin could check them) that the pope of Rome, in his most ultramontane moments, could only dream of. I could provide many other details and examples here, but they are in the book, and I have children to feed so buy the thing! (It’s been strongly praised by leading Catholic and Orthodox theologians.)

    • dianeski

      Adam, you are infinitely to the Nth power more learned than I am, so I fear to tread here, but…but…I’m not sure you’ve made your case, in that final paragraph at least.

      I don’t doubt for one minute that some Orthodox hierarchs, past and present, have been far more despotic — ultramontane, if you will — than any pope could ever hope to be. (With the possible exception of Gregory VII…? ;) ) But so what? This does not impinge on Mark’s argument WRT Rod’s confusion. Rod is working with the hypothesis that Orthodoxy is collegial and “non-papal”; he has said so. Therefore, Mark’s argument still holds: Rod expects the pope to behave in a way that he, Rod, does not accept as an appropriate way for a hierarch to behave.

      Re your second paragraph: I think you’re being somewhat unfair. Catholic perps have been deposed. We are cleaning up our act. It took us a while, and there was grave damage to souls along the way, but we have finally wised up and started disciplining perps. Usually this is done at the episcopal level, not the papal level, but how does that differ from the way such matters were handled in the past? (Am asking this sincerely, as an ignoramus on such subjects.) Hasn’t it usually been the local ordinary who addressed disciplinary issues? The pope steps in only if the local ordinary cannot or will not resolve the problem….right?

      And let’s face it: The modern popes have to govern in a more collegial way. There are 1.4 billion Catholics worldwide. Micromanaging them would be akin to herding cats.

      Could JPII have done more? Yes. But I don’t see how Benedict could have done much more than he did, short of shutting down the Legionaries completely and kicking Mahony out on his butt years earlier. Arguably Pope Benedict did more than any other person to clean the filth from the Augean stables.

      BTW, I have been following the goings-on in certain evangelical circles (the Independent Fundamentalist Baptists, for example, along with a large Calvinist group I’d never heard of before, Sovereign Grace Ministries). The fundy / evangelical world is currently exploding with sex-abuse cases and egregious coverups. And our evangelical brethren are not always handling this well. Sovereign Grace, for example, has countered a class-action lawsuit with a filing claiming that the State (Maryland, in this case) has no right to interfere with a church’s internal affairs because this would violate the First Amendment. (Thus they hope to defend against charges that they routinely counseled abuse victims to “forgive” their molesters rather than report them to the police; in fact, victims were routinely BLAMED for their “unforgiving attitude,” while the perps got off scot free!) Good grief…if the contemporary Catholic Church ever tried to pull a legal maneuver like that, we would never, ever hear the end of it. The media would be all over it like white on rice, and Rod would be leading the charge.

      Now, I am NOT saying that other communions’ crimes justify ours…not by a long, long shot. I am just trying to offer some perspective here. As Mark points out, Rod’s outrage is far too selective. Victims are victims, and abuse is abuse, and coverups are coverups, whether the perps are Baptist ministers, Catholic priests, or Orthodox priests.

  • CJ

    I don’t think Rod’s position is inconsistent at all, and Mark’s attempts to paint it that way are a red herring.

    Rod is simply saying that the person with butt-kicking-name-taking power should do something about enablers in the hierarchy. In Orthodoxy, it would be the appropriate Holy Synod. If it were the Seventh-Day Adventists, it would be the President of the General Conference. But since it’s the Roman Catholic Church, it’s the Pope. If not him, who?

    • http://wwrtc.blogspot.com Art Deco

      And what are ‘enablers’? It seems fairly clear when you have four or five real-time accusations against John Geoghan and you return him to ministry on three separate occasions where he then commits more crimes. So, you demand the resignation of Cdl. Law and Bp. McCormick, who did this. The thing is, it seldom happened that way. Instead, you had a single accusation against a priest 10, 17, or 25 years after the fact.

    • http://wwrtc.blogspot.com Art Deco

      Just to point out, communicants of the Church are more numerous than members of Seventh-Day Adventist congregations – by a factor of sixty. You do appear to have some intervening structures which might exercise authority. In the Catholic Church in the United States, there are only diocesan ordinaries.

  • dianeski

    But since it’s the Roman Catholic Church, it’s the Pope. If not him, who?

    The local ordinary. The pope steps in only when the local ordinary cannot or will not solve the problem.

    The pope could not micromanage 1.4 billion Catholics even if he wanted to.

    • http://wwrtc.blogspot.com Art Deco

      I think Fr. Groeschel suggested the Church in America was in need of a Primate with executive authority.

  • http://wwrtc.blogspot.com Art Deco

    What has not been mentioned here is that bishops guilty of violations of the 6th commandment resigned quickly upon exposure. I think that suggests there are some stereotyped procedures betwixt and between the Congregation of Bishops, the nuncio or apostolic delegate, and the metropolitan which are set in motion by such revelations (or perhaps that some things embarrass diocesan ordinaries and some things do not).

    If you do not mind an analogy from the secular world:
    During his years as President of the Motion Picture Association of America, Jack Valenti , onwas asked why the association’s ratings board dealt more severely with sexual content than with violence. His reply was that “a director can shoot a violent scene in a hundred different ways; there are only a few ways to show two people coupling on camera, only a few…”. The burden of it was that developing implementable and reliable guidelines with regard to sexual content was a much less vexatious task so you had effective rules, which they could never formulate in a satisfying way for violent content.

    Many years ago, a biology professor at one of the local liberal arts colleges explained to me why publication came to be more important than teaching in influencing tenure decisions: it is a more satisfying and reliable metric than any of the means they had at their disposal for evaluating teaching.

    Stop and think about that. Sexual misconduct by bishops is a discrete violation that can trigger stereotyped bureaucratic action. Bad judgments about reported (typically suspected but not proven) misconduct by parish clergy are not discrete violations. The offenses exist on a spectrum and require inquiries and individual judgments. Problem: the Pope has 3,000 bishops reporting to him.

    It is doubtful that if you reviewed Dreher’s commentary over the years on this subject you would find much in the way of acknowledgement of the difficulties which attend assessing uncorroborated accusations years after the fact; actually, he has a history of being irked, bored and impatient with anyone who mentions the problem. (Lee Podles is cannier and simply ignores the whole issue). You then add to that a second layer of discretionary decision-making over what degree of stupidity or asininity should trigger a resignation. When you have a character like Dreher’s old bishop Charles Grahmann or the succession of characters who presided over the Diocese of Bridgeport, it seems forthright. Other times, not so much. To take one example, Bp. Matthew Clark returned six priests to ministry after stays in psychiatric funk holes. IIRC, none of them re-offended as of 2002. Upon the discovery of these six men in 2004, they were yanked out of their parishes and put on ice. Should he have been compelled to resign for that? Another issue is the dispatch with which someone should be expected to submit their resignation. There were a mess of charges against Bp. Howard Hubbard of Albany some years back that proved to be bogus (Dreher believed them, with reservations, even though they were manifestly problematic); what happens when you act with enough dispatch to please Rod?

    On another matter, I suspect you have misinterpreted Rod all these years. His deal is displaying himself, not in actually advancing understanding of a problem or a solution.

  • dianeski

    However, such scandals are just as present in Orthodoxy. Yet Rod spends most of his scandal coverage time on Catholic scandals, not those in his own communion. Okay. Fair enough. The Catholic Church is bigger news…

    But…but…should “bigger news” be the criterion?

    I know Rod’s a journalist, so newsworthiness must always be a factor. But his relentless Catholic-Bashing goes far beyond the “scoop ‘em” requirements of his profession.

    Rod claims that he cares passionately about the victims, and that we who remain in the Catholic Church do not care enough…that we are not outraged enough.

    But, if it’s all about the victims, then shouldn’t it be about all victims, not just the victims of Catholic perps? If Rod really cares about the victims, shouldn’t he care just as much — and voice his outrage just as loudly — about Orthodox victims?

    I don’t think he can be excused on the basis of the relative obscurity of Orthodoxy. He has not approached this issue merely as a journalist. He has approached it as a sort of Minor Prophet Rebuking the Sins of the People. He has professed concern about the victims and rage at their molesters. But, frankly, that all rings rather hollow if his ire is reserved only for Catholic perps and his concern is reserved only for Catholic victims.

    I know I sound like a broken record about this, but, as the daughter of a molestation victim, I think I have that right. ;) Victims are victims, whether the perp is Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or Whirling Dervish. Rod’s double standard is not easily defensible, IMHO. (But I don’t mean that as an attack, Mark..not at all. I appreciate this post. A lot.)

    • Mark Shea

      But…but…should “bigger news” be the criterion?

      Yes. It’s bigger deal when the Abp of Boston covers up perversion than when the pastor of the Seventh Seed in the Spirit Peculiar Baptists of Waxahatchee does it.

      • dianeski

        It’s not “bigger news’ to the victim, Mark. Trust me.

      • Andy

        I went to Seventh Seed in the Spirit (Reformed) seminary. It was the Seventh Seed in the Spirit (USA) that’s had the abuse problems.

        • dianeski

          Bwahahahahaha! LOL, thanks.

          (The patheos system thingie keeps telling me my comment is too short, but, really, all I want to say is: Bwahahahahaha. Maybe I should add a few more hahas. :D )

  • dianeski

    His deal is displaying himself, not in actually advancing understanding of a problem or a solution.

    Exactly. Which is why only certain victims matter to him.

    On Rod’s Animal Farm, all victims are victims, but some victims are more victimmy than others. ;)

  • InkStained

    A bit of advice when it comes to Dreher: Just don’t read him, at least when it comes to matters Catholic. He’s angry, confused, seeking to justify his decision to go to Moscow. An interesting cultural observer sometimes; utterly confused on religion.

  • Dorothy Palmer

    A protracted exegesis of the New Testament shows Peter was neither the “rock” Rome claims, not the first Pope. Linus was the first Bishop of Rome. The work on this is too abundant to dispute, what with all the evidence gathered. The latest work on this is “Linus or Peter: the Question of Papal Infallibility” by an Eastern Orthodox priest scholar, Robert Geis. Let’s hope these two institutions, the Latin and Eastern churches, can in the next millennium see their way to a rapprochement.

    • James Stagg

      That is hilarious……and “just in time” for the yearly display of “all things not Catholic” at Easter. Let’s see, who went to Rome first, Linus or Peter? Some folks should get a life.

      BTW, did you hear the story about Thomas Didymus being the model for the statue of Buddha?

    • dianeski

      The work on this is too abundant to dispute, what with all the evidence gathered.

      I love it when people try to silence argument with statements like this. LOL.

  • http://AncientFaithTodaywithKevinAllen Kevin Allen

    “However, such scandals are just as present in Orthodoxy.”
    I wouild ask Mark to document this charge. While the Orthodox Church has had individual sexual scandals, they have never been of the institutionalized nature (bishops covering up, paying off, moving priests), or the magnitude of the Roman Catholic Church. I do not take any pleasure in any sordid and harmful scandal wherever it comes from, but take GREAT exception to such a wildly inaccurate and unsubstantiated charge made in a public forum. If Mark has evidence. let him produce it. As an Orthodox Christian journalist (Ancient Faith Radio), I am privvy to such information and categorically deny the truth of what he says.

    • Mark Shea

      I’m not talking about sexual scandals. I’m talking about the scandal of corrupt clergy, bishops in bed (figuratively speaking) with Commie regimes (for instance), some of them actually working for the Soviets, etc. My point is, there is no place you can go to escape the problem of corrupt clergy and no period in history that is a golden age. There’s no escaping the Fall in some magic communion immune from it.

      • Kevin

        Your text – “He left the Catholic communion for Orthodoxy, having come to conclusion that the claims of the papacy were false and in sharp reaction to the priest abuse scandals….However, such scandals are just as present in Orthodoxy” – seems to clearly draw a parallel between “priest abuse scandals” and the following line, “However, such scandals (which scandals if not ‘ priest abuse scandals’?) are just as present in Orthodoxy”. Thank you for clarifying.

    • http://wwrtc.blogspot.com Art Deco

      While the Orthodox Church has had individual sexual scandals, they have never been of the institutionalized nature (bishops covering up, paying off, moving priests), or the magnitude of the Roman Catholic Church.

      1. The bishops did not issue a press release every time a priest was accused of something prior to 2002, therefore they were “covering up”; bishops did not report to the authorities crimes that were non-justiciable due to the passage of time (as a comfortable majority of the crimes delineated in complaints were), therefore they were “covering up”; complaining laity did not file complaints with the local police, therefore the bishops were “covering up”.

      2. A comfortable majority of civil suits in this country are settled out of court. Bishops who attempted to contest suits got their clock cleaned (Grahmann) or were subject to cross-examinations in depositions and trials which were deeply embarrassing. Bishops did not have many options other than settle or contest. Which would you prefer?

      3. Cdl. Law, Bp. McCormick, Bp. Grahmann &c. put recidivist offenders back in parish work. Other bishops did no such thing.

      • dianeski

        Thank you, Art Deco. I do not know who you are, but your nuanced, reasoned arguments are much appreciated. By me, at least. :D

    • dianeski

      Kevin, I’m sorry, but you sound just like the in-denial defenders of Sovereign Grace Ministries.

      “Individual” cases? Astoria, anyone? Blanco? The Greek child-pornography ring run, in part, by a Greek Orthodox priest? (Some of the victims were as young as six months old!)

      Checked pokrov.org lately?

      Just because the Orthodox have covered up more successfully (e.g., not releasing the SMPAC Report) doesn’t mean they aren’t covering up.

      Do you really think Orthodoxy is immune to a disease which seems to be infecting every communion (and virtually every institution) nowadays?

      • dianeski

        By the way, if you really want documentation of the charge, give me a little time to do some Internet research, and I will be happy to oblige you.

        I’m not sure the results will be edifying, though.

        • dianeski

          Also…OK, I was thinking about this last night. Kevin, your response sounds to my ears an awfully lot like, “I thank Thee, O Lord, that we are not as those Catholics over there….” Perhaps I’m misreading you, but your comments seemed to me to ooze pride, presumption, and pharisaism.

          Saint Paul says, “If any man thinks he stands, let him take heed lest he fall.” I think this could be applied to “any communion,” too.

          You say you are in the know about the incidence of sex abuse in the Orthodox Church. I am sorry, but I respectfully call BS on that. ;) Considering that such abuse occurs in secret — and successful coverups ensure that it remains secret! — I don’t see how anyone can confidently claim to have the inside scoop.

          Again, Sovereign Grace Ministries provides a useful check. The main website critical of SGM — SGMSurvivors.org — recently ran a report on the class-action lawsuit now pending against the SGM leadership. The people who run and post at SGMSurvivors.org know a lot about the internal workings of Sovereign Grace. But even they were stunned by the scope of the sex abuse and coverups as detailed via the lawsuit discovery process. They had NO idea the evil extended as far as it did.

          These people include former high-mucky-muck leaders and insiders. They knew there were problems, but they never dreamed they were so widespread.

          There is a lesson here, methinks, for members of other communions who claim that they are relatively free of the problems which plague us Catholics. “Pride goeth before a fall.”

          “Judgment begins in the household of God,” according to Saint Peter. The judgment on clerical abuse and coverups began in the Catholic Church. But now these sins and crimes are being exposed in other communions and institutions, too — including those that fly under the radar and therefore have hitherto managed to avoid being transparent (while claiming moral and spiritual superiority ;) ).

      • Kevin

        Do you really think Orthodoxy is immune to a disease which seems to be infecting every communion (and virtually every institution) nowadays?

        No I do not think that. But as Mark said in his reply, he was not speaking of sexual scandals, which was not made clear in his post (at least to me).

        • dianeski

          Mark may not have been speaking of sexual scandals, but I am.

          Sexual abuse of minors is an epidemic in our society. Do you really think Orthodoxy is immune to it?

          Independent studies show that the incidence of clergy abuse is roughly the same (percentage-wise) across all communions. Do you really think Orthodoxy is the sole exception to this finding?

          Surely you know better. Surely you know about some of the infamous cases detailed at pokrov.org and elsewhere. Surely you’ve heard of the Eric Iliff case (and his tragic suicide); of Murder at Holy Cross; and of serial sex abuse at monasteries in Astoria, NY, and Blanco, TX. And these are scarcely isolated cases. To the contrary!

          If you seriously think that we Catholics have cornered the market on sex abuse — and that Orthodoxy is relatively free from this scourge — then I respectfully submit that you are deluding yourself. Remember, “nothing is concealed that will not be revealed.” One way or another, the truth will come out.

          • Kevin

            I am sorry you feel so defensive about this. I did not make the charge that began this thread – Mark Shea did. He retracted his statement. Done deal!

            • Kevin

              BTW – we do have “individual cases” of sexual predatory behavior and publicize them when they occur. Generally when this occurs in the US, bishops “laicize” (defrock) the alleged perpetrator. Here is one such tragic situation that resulted in an 18-year prison sentence: http://ocl.org/former-fairfield-california-pastor-sentenced/

            • dianeski

              Oh, come on, Kevin. Defensive, schmensive. You are the one who keeps claiming that the Orthodox record WRT sex abuse is so superior to the Catholic record. And, when you are supplied with examples that clearly show otherwise, you resort to ad hominem (the defensiveness charge), then try to silence me with “Mark retracted his charge, so done deal, neener-neener.” Nope, NOT done deal. I am not Mark, and I have retracted nothing.

              You cite one case in which Orthodox bishops promptly dealt with a perp. That’s nice. I can cite similar cases in which Catholic bishops have done the same — including one case in my own diocese wherein the diocesan chancery actually discovered the situation and immediately reported it to the authorities. Proactively, IOW, before anyone else knew anything about it.

              But, just as we Catholics have other cases which are not resolved so expeditiously, so do you Orthodox. And you know it. Seriously, Kevin…do you really want me to name names and cite specific examples? As I asked before, have you checked pokrov.org lately?

              Ask Cappy Larson and Melanie Sakoda, who run pokrov.org, whether Orthodox perps are always defrocked…whether they are always even removed from contact with children, for goodness sakes. Do you really want to turn over that rock?

              Your comments display a sort of pharisaical triumphalism which I’ve frequently encountered among Internet Orthodox: “We are the Orthodox; we’re right and you’re wrong; we’re pure and you’re a mess; we can do no wrong whereas you do nothing but.” (Converts from Calvinism seem particularly prone to this syndrome, in my experience: They go from “We’re the Elect, and you’re not” to “We’re still the Elect, and you’re still not.” ;-) )

              Thankfully most Orthodox (even on the Internet) do not entertain such ostrich-like delusions of superior purity and holiness. Those who do…well, I have to ask, do you not see how ridiculous your protestations of spiritual and moral superiority make you look? Seriously? :o

              • Kevin

                You have been making the ad hominems and frankly they are progressively becoming very “over the top”. Obviously I have hit a nerve. My purpose was simply to correct an over-statement by Mark (which he corrected) where he tried to make a correlation between an institutionalized problem, with episcopal cover-ups, worldwide, of which there is no parallel that I am aware of in Orthodoxy. I have never said once that the Orthodox Church does not have its issues and individual cases of such scandals. If you want to be angry with me for correcting something that the author of this post corrected for good reason, then you are free to do so.

                • dianeski

                  (To avoid the spam trigger, in the following response I have deleted the word “sex” from the term “s— abuse” in most cases; but please read “abuse” as if the S-word were there…OK? ;-) )

                  OK, here goes, Kevin.

                  Mamma mia. How can one deal with such willful refusal to engage the actual arguments?

                  Again you resort to ad hominems. I could just as easily claim that I have struck a nerve, since you keep coming back to respond. Two can play that silly “you’re defensive; I’ve struck a nerve” game.

                  My purpose was simply to correct an over-statement by Mark (which he corrected)….

                  Mark did no such thing. He said he wasn’t necessarily talking about s— abuse. He never said, “And that means I believe Orthodoxy is free from major abuse problems.” You are jumping to that conclusion, but it’s not what Mark wrote.

                  …where he tried to make a correlation between an institutionalized problem, with episcopal cover-ups, worldwide, of which there is no parallel that I am aware of in Orthodoxy.

                  Says who?

                  The Monomachos blog, of which you may be aware, has an entire section entitled “Bishops Behaving Badly” devoted to Orthodox episcopal malfeasance, including s— abuse and cover-ups. If Orthodoxy lacks “an institutionalized problem, with episcopal coverups,” then why do abuse and coverup cases crowd the pages of Monomachos and Pokrov.org (not to mention the pages of secular newspapers and online news sources in Greece and among the Greek-American community here in the U.S.)?

                  How many cases will it take before you concede that you, too, have an “institutionalized problem,” whatever the heck that means? (Will get to that later.)

                  I have never said once that the Orthodox Church does not have its issues and individual cases of such scandals.

                  You keep harping on this “individual cases” mantra, as though it somehow proves your highly questionable claim that Orthodoxy’s sins are far fewer and less heinous than anyone else’s.

                  Um, yeah, well…all cases are “individual cases.” Yes, even in the Catholic Church. What the heck do you think we Catholics have – an abuse conglomerate? Molestation Inc.? Good holy grief. We have “individual cases,” just the same as you have. And no, we don’t have some “institutionalized” system of corporate worldwide abuse. Art Deco has already completely demolished this baseless charge, yet you keep repeating it (without a shred of evidence, let alone proof) as though it were irrefutable Gospel Truth.

                  As I have already noted, various independent studies have shown that the incidence of clergy s— abuse is roughly the same (percentage-wise) across all communions. Presumably that includes yours.

                  “Percentage-wise” is the key term here. Religious communions vary greatly in size; therefore, raw numbers do not tell us all we need to know about the incidence of this or that problem. We have to look at the percentages. Studies show that the percentage of clergy abuse runs around 2% to 4% across communions. Again: presumably including yours.

                  Are you perchance in the OCA (Rod’s jurisdiction)? If so, then you may be aware that the OCA has about 40,000 active members, according to most estimates I’ve seen. (Some people claim the OCA has a million members, but most insiders admit that this is sheer fantasy.)

                  Well, OK. Here in my diocese (Charlotte, NC), we have a Catholic parish, Saint Matthew’s, located in South Charlotte, with a membership of roughly 20,000 (8,600 families).

                  You read that right. Twenty thousand. One parish. In “mission territory” yet!

                  The membership of this one parish is roughly half that of the entire OCA.

                  Nationwide there are more than 70 million Catholics. Worldwide there are 1.4 billion. Obviously, then, our “2-4%” of clergy offenders will translate into a greater raw number than the OCA’s 2-4%. But the point is that it is still 2-4%. The same as for every other church. If you Orthodox have fewer perps (raw-number-wise), it is only because you have FAR fewer members.

                  This is basic math. Surely you can grasp it?? [Beats head against wall]

                  Yes, even one case is one too many. But you have tried to portray my Church as a hotbed of “institutionalized” abuse and coverups, with priestly perps behind every bush and episcopal enablers in every chancery. This charge is simply not true. It is irresponsibly slanderous. Surely the Orthodox, like us Catholics, consider slander a sin?

                  A few years ago, the U.S. bishops commissioned an independent study of Catholic abuse by the respected John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Nota bene: INDEPENDENT study. This was an outside report, not an internal audit.

                  What did the John Jay study find? That about 4% of Catholic clergy had been “credibly accused” of abuse over a 40-year period. (Most cases occurred decades in the past.)

                  Four percent. “Credibly accused,” not convicted.

                  Is this 4 percent too many? Of course. But it is also a far cry from your picture of pervasive “institutionalized” abuse in the Catholic Church. Indeed, as I have repeatedly stated, it is about the same percentage as in other communions.

                  (If you dispute John Jay’s findings, I suggest that you take it up with John Jay. The College was not in the Catholic bishops’ pockets by any means; this was a wholly independent study; even the media recognize it as such.)

                  This brings up a related point. I understand that the OCA has done an internal audit of its own abuse cases, the SMPAC Report. It has never commissioned an outside, independent study (nor has any other Orthodox jurisdiction, AFAIK). All it has done is this internal SMPAC Report. And, from what I’m told, this SMPAC Report has never been publicly released!

                  Irony of ironies! Here you are, accusing us Catholics of being so much more culpable than you Orthodox…yet we have commissioned and released an external, independent study (more than one, in fact), whereas you Orthodox won’t even publicly release your own internal audit. (Which certainly raises the question of what you have to hide, but that’s a whole ‘nuther question.)

                  The contemporary Catholic Church has embraced transparency. Yes, we were forced into it, by horrible publicity and costly lawsuits; but the bottom line is that we are now committed to transparency. Meanwhile, the Orthodox churches are about as transparent as mud.

                  So, what does it all come down to, Kevin? Simple: People who live in glass houses really shouldn’t throw stones.

                  Mark very charitably refrained from pressing his point when you challenged him — not because his point wasn’t valid but because other arguments served his purpose just as well. However, you jumped on his irenical forbearance and exploited it so that you could repeat your slanderous FALSE charge that the Catholic Church has an exponentially greater (“institutionalized”) abuse problem than the Orthodox churches have.

                  Far from proving your point, you have undermined it. You have offered no evidence; you have merely asserted.

                  I should have my head examined for continuing this discussion. But you know what? I don’t particularly appreciate anti-Catholic lies and slander, and I believe in setting the record straight. So…sue me.

                  If you want to be angry with me for correcting something that the author of this post corrected for good reason, then you are free to do so.

                  I have already responded to this bogus claim, so I will refrain from wasting any more pixels on it.

                  Good day. I’m done. All I can say in parting is: Thank God the good Orthodox people I know in Real Life do not argue the way you do.

  • George Sim Johnston

    It has been said that a pope sometimes has to think in terms of centuries. A major goal of the papacy is some kind of reunification with the Orthodox. Pope John Paul II wrote of the Church breathing again with its two lungs, East and West. If any pope had a steady policy of deposing bishops, that alone would put off reunification a century or two.

    Dear Dorothy Palmer: Some of the early Church Fathers must have been terribly misinformed. Saint Ignatius of Antioch (a disciple of Saint John), Saint Irenaeus (a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John), Saint Athanasius, Saint Cyprian all recognized the primacy of the Bishop of Rome.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X