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.

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