Attempted “Dialogue” with an Anti-Catholic Orthodox

Attempted “Dialogue” with an Anti-Catholic Orthodox March 10, 2020

This was from public debates on my old Internet discussion group, with a former Catholic Orthodox: from 1997. His words will be in blue.

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Dave’s essay [see link] . . . is based upon a view which, though normal in Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, is wholly different than that found in Orthodox Catholic Christianity.

“Wholly?” Where does that leave us, then, outside the fold altogether, according to you? Or are the Eastern Catholics in the fold because they share many of your “views” in theology, liturgy, discipline and spirituality, whereas us “Latins” are out?

[Note: I was anxious to see what my opponent thought of Eastern Catholics, but the answer didn’t appear. Perhaps an oversight on his part . . . ]
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“Canon Oestreicher, an Anglican priest who is also a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers), was for many years the secretary for east-west relations of the British Council of Churches.”

So you think that a guy who can’t figure out if he’s Anglican or Quaker (how’s that for “broad church?”) is some sort of credible authority on Orthodox-Catholic relations? And if the BCC is anything like the indifferentist NCC and WCC, all the more reason to be wary of the Canon’s opinions.

Dave, if you would read what the Anglican/Quaker wrote instead of dismissing him with ad hominem ridicule — what does it matter if he is the biggest wacko in the world?

You don’t care much for conservative, biblical ecumenism, yet when it suits your purpose, you’re willing to cite (in all likelihood) a theological liberal and “ecumenist” (i.e., the type of fluffy-headed “ecumenism” I despise, along with you) who doesn’t even know where he himself stands (Anglican/Quaker), as an “authority” on East-West relations. Quakers don’t even baptize, for heaven’s sake! They don’t recognize ordination. There are questions of credibility, yes. This guy’s word shouldn’t count for much in either of our camps, I should think. True, I don’t know a whole lot about him, but what I do know is decidedly unimpressive. Not ad hominem; just a stand against the pretensions and follies of theological liberalism. We can agree on that much, can’t we?

respond to what he says not his background — you might be able to see why Orthodox Catholic Christians consider Roman Catholicism and Protestantism as two sides of the same coin wholly different from us.

No, I don’t buy this Orthodox polemical notion that “Protestants and Catholics are both Western rationalists; two peas in a pod” analysis. I think it is extremely faulty and unable to withstand theological and logical scrutiny. My own opinion is that Orthodox and Catholics are far closer theologically, liturgically, and ecclesiologically than are Protestants and Catholics (and I think obviously so). Far too many of the anti-Catholic Protestant arguments, e.g., apply equally to both of us (as we ourselves learned in a certain Calvinist-dominated List, where I defended you from charges of semi-Pelagianism).

I could also cite Daniel B. Clendenin’s book Eastern Orthodox Christianity: A Western Perspective.

Go ahead. Does he know what he believes? :-) Or is baptism up for grabs in his theology, too?

Both Clendenin and Oestreicher have spent a great deal of time with Orthodox Catholic Christians and have come to a better understanding of Orthodox Catholicism than most Western Christians, including, in my opinion, yourself. Don’t be so quick to dismiss such experience.

I don’t. I just wish it would proceed from a more stable, coherent, “orthodox” base. And if I felt I had total understanding of Orthodoxy, I certainly wouldn’t be spending hours a day with this list, now would I?

Roman Catholicism’s concept of ‘validity’ for sacraments and Apostolic Succession is based upon a legalistic understanding wholly foreign to Orthodoxy.

So, then, you have no Canon Law whatsoever, if legalism per se is so “foreign” to you? As for apostolic succession, have you missed my chart of heretical Eastern patriarchs? Without Rome and the West, there would scarcely have been any succession in the East, by your standards, according to the notion of “Pentarchy.”

We have no ‘canon law’.

Really? That’s interesting.

Your statement regarding Apostolic Succession shows you didn’t understand what I wrote at all. Apostolic Succession is not something physically passed down from bishop to bishop, it is maintained within the Church.

Can you explain this for me, then, and show how your conception differs from ours?

I’m afraid you’re twisting of my words

Does that imply a deliberate action on my part, or merely an inadvertent one?

reinforces my initial thought that it would be futile to engage in this list as we end up talking past one another. It has become increasingly apparent to me since my conversion that no one comes to an understanding of Orthodox Catholic Christianity through argumentation.

For what purpose do you want to remain on the list, then? It seems to me you just cut off the limb you’re sitting on, by arguing against “arguing.” Nor is it conducive to true dialogue to open up with a blast against Catholic liberalism, when you know full well that the Catholics on this list have no love for liberalism and heterodoxy. Note, on the other hand, how I just asked Orthodox to explain their conception of apostolic succession. You didn’t ask me anything about Catholicism in your post, but simply dogmatically lectured us about how rotten things supposedly are in “Roman Catholicism.” All of this being the case, your comment above strikes me as quite hollow.

For instance, Roman Catholicism teaches that if a baptism is done with the correct words (a Trinitarian formula) and the correct substance (water), then a baptism is ‘valid’, i.e., it conveys grace to the recipient.

You neglect to mention that the baptizer must also intend to do what the Church desires and believes regarding the sacrament (see, e.g., Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), #1256, 1284).

In theory, yes. But in practise, I’ve never heard of a Roman Catholic priest attempting to learn the intent of the one who administered baptism to a potential convert. Instead, they generally rely on evaluations done by bishop conferences.

You expect me to go by what you’ve “heard,” rather than by official proclamations such as the Catechism? Uh uh. There must be some objective standard to determine what a group believes. There will always be corruptions in practice, but I don’t see how discussions of those helps move discussion along at all. I could just as easily speak of rampant ethnocentrism within Orthodoxy, as Frank Schaeffer and Archbishop Kallistos Ware do, but what good would that do in this context? You know it exists, I do, most here do, I imagine, but you and I also know that true Orthodoxy rejects such thinking. And that has to be the bottom line, for all Christians will always fall short of their ideals and beliefs, both communally and individually.

According to the Roman Catholic view, this means if a Buddhist pours water over someone and pronounces the correct words, a ‘valid’ baptism has been effected.

I doubt that any sane Buddhist worth his salt would be 1) trinitarian, and/or 2) would have the Church’s intention vis-a-vis baptism. If they’re not even theist, how can they be trinitarian? That’s stretching it just a wee bit, my friend.

Such logic compels Roman Catholicism to accept as ‘valid’ baptisms done by the Mormons who deny the Trinity although employing the ‘correct’ wording in their ritual.

Nonsense, on the same grounds as the imaginary Buddhist “baptism.”

[Side Note: for the record, I prefer labelling Mormonism as ‘pseudo-Christian’ since they claim to be Christian but deny too many basic Christian beliefs to qualify.]

What do you call us? :-) And I would call Mormons non-Christians and rank heretics myself, having been involved in “cult-watching” and outreach for some 15 years now.

I specifically recall reading (in the mid 1970s) the evaluation of the National Council of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) of the ‘validity’ of various groups’ baptisms. Mormonism was listed as ‘valid’, much to my surprise.

Either produce the quote or don’t bring it up at all. Show some respect for your opponent by at least citing solid sources. But even so, a contradiction between the NCCB and true Catholic dogma would not be unheard-of. And you know which side us orthodox Catholics will take on such occasions.

(Back then, I was a hard-line apologist for Roman Catholicism like you are now.)

All the more reason that you should be able to represent our views accurately.

Likewise, a priest or bishop ‘validly’ ordained shares in Apostolic Succession no matter how heretical his views may become.

So Orthodox have to wonder whether every sacrament they receive is real or not, based on the personal orthodoxy of the priest? You deny ex opere operato? Is this not Donatism revisited?

Again, you have not read my words carefully. The text of mine quoted above is my description of Roman Catholic belief.

I did, and I know. You are the one who missed my point, viz., if heretical priests cannot possess the “mysteries,” as you stated, then the above statement of mine follows, and the laymen in those often-heretical times I recount in my notorious “chart of heretical patriarchs” were in rough shape indeed. And that sad situation you have not addressed in the least. This is where the comparison to Donatism becomes very apt and relevant, and you’ve yet to show me otherwise.

If a bishop with ‘Apostolic Succession’ according to this legalistic concept ordains someone apart from Roman Catholicism, the Roman Catholic Church accepts that ordination as a part of the Apostolic Succession. That is why Roman Catholicism is compelled by its own logic to acknowledge ‘valid orders’ in the Old Catholics, the Lefebvrites (sp?) and even many in ECUSA (Spong???).

We don’t acknowledge Anglican orders, so only former Catholics who go Anglican would retain valid ordination (was Spong Catholic?).

So all those poor people in Alexandria, Constantinople, and Antioch who suffered under Monophysite and Monothelite bishops for decades on end (see my chart again) were not receiving valid sacraments all that time? Where were they to go to find “orthodoxy” and the true succession? I know Rome would have been one place, as St. Athanasius and St. John Chrysostom and St. Flavian knew well. But few could afford the boat trip, so . . . ???

According to Orthodox Catholic belief, no bishop may ‘validly’ ordain outside the Church. Similarly, no Orthodox Catholic priest may even celebrate the Divine Liturgy without the permission of the bishop (this is just as St Ignatius of Antioch taught).

Now please apply this to my scenario, if you would: what if the bishop is Monophysite or Monothelite, then what happens to the laypeople who usually wouldn’t know who ordained their priest? Are they then without sacraments? Babies aren’t truly baptized, and hence not regenerate, etc.? As you can see, the consequences of Donatism or “quasi-Donatism” are grave indeed.

Any ‘ordination’ outside the Church has as much value as if it were done in a theatre: it is merely action without meaning. This is not Donatism. That heresy taught that the validity was dependent upon the sanctity of the minister acting within the Church.

Fine, but you neglect to see that the laymen in those times could hardly distinguish what “orthodoxy” was, with christological heresy so entrenched and rampant. The bishops at the “Robber Council” thought they were “orthodox.” This is my whole point.

You seem to be unfamiliar with the fact that a LARGE number of ECUSA bishops were ordained by Old Catholics. Since, according to the legalistic view Old Catholics have ‘valid’ orders, and since they ‘ordained’ these Episcopalians according to ‘proper form’, they must be regarded (in Roman terms) as having ‘valid orders’.

Well, schism always produces confusion, doesn’t it? In this instance, I would place the blame for the confusion on the Anglicans and Old Catholics, since they left in the first place, not on our conception of apostolic succession, which can be explicitly grounded in the Fathers.

The Orthodox Catholic Church does not view things that way. From our perspective, the above seems to treat God’s grace as something ‘magical’ which is controlled by man’s rituals.

This is a caricature worthy of the anti-Catholic fundamentalists. Strange, coming from one who accepts the same sacraments as us.

We see, rather, that grace resides within the Body of Christ, the Church. Separating from the Church is like cutting a branch off from the True Vine.

Of course, per, e.g., St. Augustine.

Once cut off, the branch begins to die. When the branch has so departed from the Orthodox Catholic faith as has, for example, Mormonism, there is absolutely no question that it is utterly incapable of being an instrument of conveying life-giving grace in baptism.

You’re right! If only you could see that we agree with you!

For the other groups which are separated from the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church (e.g., Roman Catholicism), there is room for differences as to whether they possess life-giving grace due to the mercy of God despite their separation from the True Church, the Body of Christ.

Ah! So you’re not sure about us, then? How can you find out for sure?

Why the penchant for certainty?

Isn’t it obvious? For starters: souls are at stake. Eternal destinies lie in the balance. Yet certainty in these matters doesn’t strike you as important?

However, with the increasing number of reports of the baptismal ritual being performed by Roman Catholic priests ‘in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier’, there are more Orthodox Christians rejecting the idea that Roman Catholic baptisms can be recognised as having grace.

Well, the obvious reply is that such “baptisms” are invalid by our own laws, whether or not you accept them or not. The real question of concern is whether you accept as valid a correctly administered Catholic baptism. If not, this is pure Donatism, or worse, since it raises extremely serious questions about apostolic succession and the perpetuity of the true deposit of faith and apostolic Christian Tradition.

We Orthodox Catholic Christians do NOT accept your sacraments.

So none of us are regenerate, since we were never baptized? Our priests aren’t truly ordained? And I’m not sacramentally married? When I received absolution, that wasn’t valid, so I wasn’t truly forgiven (thus possibly in mortal sin)? I’m sure glad I don’t have to believe this kind of stuff about you guys! Man!

Now, if you could only see that it is Roman Catholicism which has broken off from the Church and has lost its ability to convey life-giving grace!

This is simply an impossible position to take, historically and ecclesiologically, for many many reasons. I consider this as intellectually bankrupt as the Protestant anti-Catholic drivel about the “Beast,” “idolatry,” etc. If you want to be so bold and foolish as to assert this, you will have a lot of explaining to do; at least around here, and as long as I have any say about it. And — as always — I take these statements not as a personal affront, but as a slander against my Church and the sin of unnecessary divisiveness.

In my humble opinion, even the most casual observer should be aware of the internal decay afflicting the Roman Catholic Church. From the perspective of the Orthodox Christian, this is the inevitable result of Rome separating herself from the Church and the life-giving grace contained therein.

You forget that the situation was far worse in many respects in the Renaissance or Enlightenment periods, yet for some odd reason Catholicism rejuvenated itself both times, and we are at the beginning of yet another such revival. Strange, if we are cut off from the “life-giving grace” that only you can give us! Under your view, we would’ve gotten worse steadily ever since the 11th century. But of course we don’t find that, making your scenario utterly implausible if not outright ludicrous.

And Fr. Schmemann noted the Pharisaical legalism and ethnocentrism which has often marred Orthodoxy with regard to its disdain of “the West”:

Everything native and Russian seemed Orthodox and everything alien was heretical and ‘heathen.’ Russians wore beards, and the beard became an essential symbol of being Orthodox, while the clean-shaven face was a sign of belonging to the Latin heresy. The Council of the Hundred Chapters forbade the celebration of funeral services for those without beards, as well as the offering of communion bread or candles on his behalf; he should be counted with the unbelievers. (The Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy, Chicago: Regnery, 1963, p. 321)

Wow! Lucky Fr. Gillquist and Franky Schaeffer weren’t born in Russia in the old days, huh?

Roman Catholicism is seen like the (large) branch which has broken off from the tree and has begun to wither. (The larger the branch that breaks off the tree, the longer it takes before the withering becomes noticeable.) Is it any wonder that traditionalist Roman Catholics have expressed a strong desire to achieve reunion with the Orthodox Catholic Church in order to provide an infusion which (they think) could counter the many present-day afflictions within Roman Catholicism? (I have heard such expressions from traditionalist Roman Catholics myself.)

Um, try, rather, John 17:20-23 and 1 Corinthians 1:10 for starters. That’s my rationale. I’m commanded by Christ and Paul to achieve oneness and unity with all Christians, as much as possible. Your divisive attitude, on the other hand, is condemned in equally vehement injunctions (Rom 16:17; 1 Cor 3:3). And I’m happy to note that it is not the prevalent view within Orthodoxy.

Following the continuous teaching of the Orthodox Catholic Church, we Orthodox Christians believe that if a priest or bishop separates from the Church, he is no longer a priest.

So then you are a Donatist?

Orthodox Catholicism takes a more moderate path. The sanctity of the minister does not affect whether grace is present in a Mystery, but it must be within the Church, for once separated from the True Vine, there is no life.

So, again, please answer how this works out in the 5th century under a heretical patriarch?

For the other groups which are separated from the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church (e.g., Roman Catholicism), there is room for differences as to whether they possess life-giving grace due to the mercy of God despite their separation from the True Church, the Body of Christ.

So you say we have no grace, but allow “room for difference” on the matter? Exceedingly strange . . .

Note: St Ignatius taught the importance of the bishop to each of the communities to whom he wrote. He clearly saw the bishop of each community as the episkopos — the overseer — of the community.

As they are in Catholicism.

He did not see individual bishops as subject to a ‘super-bishop’.

I and my Catholic friends have documented the contrary among the Fathers till we’re blue in the face, and as of yet, I have never had an Orthodox deal with all the patristic papal evidence (or primacy of Rome data) which we have brought to bear. In the last discussion group, when my friend David Palm [a Catholic apologist] posted a wealth of such information, I waited in vain for an Orthodox counter-response. It never came.

After all, once a ‘super-bishop’ is established, the others are no longer truly bishops in the original sense of episkopos.

How does this follow? It is merely a false dichotomy. Orthodox acknowledge the primacy of honor of St. Peter (and some even of the present pope), yet it doesn’t detract from the episcopal status of the other disciples. Well, we say that supremacy and headship doesn’t do that, either.

The priesthood is not, according to Orthodox Catholic teaching, a magical power that perpetually gives the recipient a permanent ability to perform sacramental functions precisely because the sacraments are not controlled by ritual actions. The innovative teaching of Roman Catholicism that treats grace as an object separate from God (‘created grace’) leads to the teaching that grace is automatically given even outside the Church when the proper formulae is observed. Orthodox Catholic teaching is that grace is inseparable from God and that separation from the Body of Christ is thus separation from the source of grace.

This is gross inaccuracy again. According to the CCC:

In [the sacraments] Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies . . . (#1127)

‘The sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God.’ [Aquinas]. From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them. (#1128)

This is not to say that individual Roman Catholics may not, due to the tremendous mercy of God Who loves mankind, be recipients of grace. God grants grace to Whom He wills. He has, however, guaranteed it to His Church, but not to those separated from the Church. An analogy may help. Being a member of the Orthodox Catholic Church is like having an address with a map showing the route; those outside the Church are lacking some of these things. Their address may be wrong or missing, their map may be inaccurate, or they may not even have a map. Still, they might end up at the correct destination whilst those possessing the correct address and accurate map (Orthodox Christians) may still get lost and not arrive at the intended destination.

So, as with the opinion of anti-Catholic fundamentalists, we can be saved to the extent that we are ignorant and/or lousy Catholics, despite the Catholic Church? Gee, thanks for small favors!

Dave’s essay demonstrates a mentality which assumes that because Rome was on the correct side of the majority of doctrinal disputes during the first millennium

So you concede that point? That would include the papacy, too, would it not? :-)

that Rome must therefore be on the correct side during the second millennium and beyond. The fallacy of such argumentation should be obvious on its face.

No, I’m afraid it’s not so obvious. Perhaps you will actually interact with the arguments next time, rather than dismiss them with flippant remarks such as these.

Without going into a lot of historical details — . . .

Which is precisely what is needed for Orthodox (particularly the anti-Catholic ones) to make their case . . .

I would point out that there were fewer heresies that afflicted Rome during the fourth through seventh centuries than in the East because Rome was a small, backwater town far removed from the cultural, intellectual, economic, political, and population centre of the Empire.

A little simplistic, methinks. Funny, then, that so many heretics made their way to Rome in hopes of their heresies “taking” in the Church. Why would they do that, I wonder?

Consider the situation in the United States today. Where do we find those thinkers who want to overthrow the beliefs of past generations: in New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco; or in Peoria, Springfield (MO), and Des Moines? And who is more willing to embrace these innovations: the ‘upper classes’ or the rank and file? It was no different then. Doctrinal innovators were attracted to the East, not towards Rome. The ‘intelligentsia’ found in the large cities of the East were quicker to embrace these innovations, these heresies than [the] hoi polloi. So, yes, backward Rome experienced far fewer instances of heretical teachings. And yes, backward Rome’s physical isolation provided an attractive place for right-believing (Orthodox) refugees who sought shelter from the persecutions of heretics. But NONE of this demonstrates the infallibility of Rome, let alone the infallibility of one office.

Yet somehow Rome produced in this same period, e.g., Pope St. Leo the Great (the hero of Chalcedon) and Pope St. Gregory the Great – both revered by Orthodox as well as Catholic. I’m underwhelmed by your reasoning. The consistent orthodoxy of Rome is indicative of far more than mere historical and cultural happenstance. Sts. Peter and Paul didn’t just happen to be martyred there. These things are in God’s Providence and design, and the subsequent remarkable history of the Roman See confirms it, whether Rome itself was a cultural “backwater” or not. Bethlehem and Nazareth were “backwaters” (“backdeserts?” :-) too, but look what came out of them!

What enabled the small town of Rome to become the centre of a great empire (before the capital was transferred to the East), conquering older, more-established civilisations, was her organisational genius. The hierarchical structure of the military enabled Rome to conquer less well organised peoples. Unfortunately, over the years, Rome used the military structure as a model for its ecclesiastical structure. This effectively denied the communal essence of the Church.

Ecumenical Councils and the sensus fidelium appear quite “communal” to me, thank you, whereas Orthodox continue to operate under at least seventeen different, often competing (too often bitterly so) jurisdictions. I say we win on this score. What’s “communal” about such scandalous division? Do Orthodox even attempt to have Councils amongst themselves anymore?

Rome’s isolation — the very thing which helped protect it from heretics who attempted to spread their errors in the centre of the Empire — made it too easy for Rome to begin diverging from the Orthodox Catholic faith, and too difficult for it to receive corrections from other communities. (Remember that when Rome broke with Constantinople, ALL the other patriarchates (Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Antioch) sided with Constantinople. It was the ancient patriarchate of Rome which separated from the others.)

Oh, so are you referring to the same period? Rome was supposedly increasingly heterodox during the era of Monophysite and Monothelite (and later Iconoclast) dominance in the East; the “Robber Council” and the Henoticon? Very curious. You’re being so historically vague, how does one even counter-argue? The only time period you mentioned was 4th to 7th centuries, so I respond accordingly.

The bishop of Rome became the only real bishop (in the original sense of the work episkopos, ‘overseer’); the other so-called bishops were but his lieutenants (or maybe captains or majors).

This is an inaccurate portrayal of Catholic ecclesiology, of course. See, for example, my paper on Pope St. Gregory the Great.

The Orthodox Catholic means for resolving disputes is to involve the entire community in conciliar resolution.

And you claim that’s being done now? Unless you’re defining “community” strictly locally . . .

It takes time for decisions to be reached by this means. The Roman Catholic structure which ultimately vests all decision-making authority in one person can act more quickly. The military-like structure of the Roman hierarchy does provide a sense of security. Giving up this security is, in my experience, one of the most difficult things for a Roman Catholic to do when coming to Orthodox Catholicism. (I tell them it requires faith.)

So now you’re reduced to psycho-babble-type explanations of Catholic conversion? C’mon! Don’t make me laugh, for heaven’s sake! <GGGGG>

Roman Catholics — like Dave — think it necessary to have one person with whom ‘the buck stops’ in order to guarantee right doctrine. This is a clear manifestation of the Roman mentality which must have the security of a clear command structure.

If you’re so sure our “security” is merely and solely psychological and what I would call “childish,” then surely you can make quick work of all my biblical arguments for the papacy, right? (something else no Orthodox has ever done in my seven years as a Catholic, and I have over 35 extended debates in my own files). Until then, spare me (and us) the armchair ersatz psychoanalysis. I can see through it too easily. And besides, if we must argue in this silly, insubstantial vein, I think it is clear that a continual Eastern caesaro-papist “mentality” is far more destructive than our supposed “Roman hierarchical mentality.”

Orthodox Catholicism knows from experience that any bishop, any priest, any layman can fall into error.

Of course, on a human level. All the more remarkable that the popes in a “backwater” town never did! Indicative of the divine hand . . .

Relying on a single person as a guarantee of orthodoxy is truly ‘putting all one’s eggs in one basket’ with all the potentially dire possibilities that entails.

You act as if the pope operates in total isolation, apart from all influences, episcopal and lay, which is absurdly stereotypical and demonstrably false.

The Roman Catholic view of unity places its emphasis on the external organisation and sees it guaranteed by the pope of Rome. As long as a person is in allegiance to the pope of Rome, he is deemed in the Church.

And how do you determine “orthodoxy?” Or, for that matter, how do you know which Councils are ecumenical and which not?

What a person believes is actually less important than his willingness to give allegiance to the Roman pope.

This is a false dichotomy and thus a non sequitur.

This is not all that different than the ancient Roman Empire’s attitude that conquered peoples were deemed a part of the Empire as long as they were willing to give allegiance to Rome. These peoples did not have to accept the culture or the language of the conquerors (as had been the normal practise of empires up to that time). They just had to give allegiance.

Here we go with the bogus, completely subjective “cultural/psychological” analysis again. Hardly compelling. When will you give me something objective, to which I can sensibly and constructively respond?

Today, it is easy to find those who consider themselves Roman Catholics and are treated as Roman Catholics by the Roman Catholic Church even though they teach things which are contrary to official Roman Catholic teaching. (Take a look at most any theology department at a Roman Catholic university in the U.S.).

Of course, there are no liberals in Orthodoxy, right? Ha! Guess again . . . Our liberals are known for their advocacy (or at least toleration) of contraception and divorce, and their opposition to papal supremacy. That is exactly the case with most Orthodox. Talk about liberalism! At least we have many many priests who take the opposite, orthodox traditional Catholic (and apostolic) view on these matters.

It has been said that Orthodoxy Catholicism’s fear is heterodoxy and Roman Catholicism’s fear is schism. There is a lot of truth in that observation. We are much more willing to tolerate breaks in unity in order to preserve the Truth.

The Bible and the Apostles disallow this. It is sin.

Roman Catholicism is willing to tolerate heterodoxy and heresy in order to preserve their jurisdictional unity. From our perspective, such ‘unity’ is a facade.

Have you never read the parable of the wheat and tares? But there is no heresy when it comes to the “books,” such as the Catechism, Vatican II, or papal encyclicals. And that is the bottom line. The liberals are dying out, and the winds of change are already apparent. This has always been the case throughout Church history. The Catholic ship will never sink from the treasonous blasts of pirates within! G. K. Chesterton wrote:

I suspect that we should find several occasions when Christendom was thus to all appearance hollowed out from within by doubt and indifference, so that only the old Christian shell stood as the pagan shell had stood so long. But the difference is that in every such case, the sons were fanatical for the faith where the fathers had been slack about it. This is obvious in the case of the transition from the Renaissance to the Counter-Reformation. It is obvious in the case of a transition from the eighteenth century to the many Catholic revivals of our own time . . . Just as some might have thought the Church simply a part of the Roman Empire, so others later might have thought the Church only a part of the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages ended as the Empire had ended; and the Church should have departed with them, if she had been also one of the shades of night. (The Everlasting Man, Garden City, New York: Doubleday Image, 1925, pp. 250-252)

Orthodox Catholicism is willing to break communion and even to permanently separate in order to protect the faithful from being harmed by heterodox bishops and presbyters.

So let the other jurisdiction be damned and left to suffer under heterodoxy, since there is no formal, overarching means of maintaining orthodoxy? That’s hardly impressive. It is the Protestant, schismatic principle, not the biblical, Christian traditional one.

The Orthodox Catholic Church is intolerant of false doctrine. (For me, coming to recognise that the Orthodox Church today is a communion of separate churches — the same communitarian structure which functioned in the early Church —

The early church was united, Orthodoxy is not.

whereas the Roman Catholic Church possessed an administrative unity whilst lacking a real unity as possessed by the Orthodox Church was a major watershed in my conversion to Orthodoxy.)

If you’re so “unified,” why, then, must you have so many competing jurisdictions, which often mutually anathematize each other?

From the Orthodox Catholic perspective, when a bishop or presbyter falls into heterodoxy, he excommunicates himself inasmuch as he has departed from the Truth and thus separates himself from Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Separated from the Life, he cannot possess the Holy Mysteries because the Holy Mysteries received their vitality from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Donatism again, and this makes mincemeat of apostolic succession.

For us Orthodox Christians, the centre of our unity is our doctrine and it is expressed most fully in the sharing of the Eucharist. When we share the Eucharist, it is a visible manifestation of complete unity in our hearts and souls. We feel it better to break communion with another — often as a form of warning — rather than take the risk that we might be sharing the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ with one who is not ortho (right) – dox (believing). When we see Roman Catholics who teach things which are indisputably, undoubtedly, unquestionably heretical sharing the Eucharist with other Roman Catholics, it says one of two things: 1) either Roman Catholicism accepts these teachings, or 2) they hold the Eucharist in very low esteem if they are willing to share it with such people.

I agree that deliberate heretics ought to be barred from the communion table. There are, however, many automatic excommunications in our view, such as you mention above.

It is important to understand that, from an Orthodox Catholic perspective, anyone who falls into heresy is no longer a part of the Orthodox Catholic Church. When Roman Catholics such as Dave point to heretical patriarchs in Constantinople as evidence that Orthodox Catholicism fell into heresy, they betray their lack of understanding of what the Orthodox Catholic Church teaches. In my opinion, they are attempting to superimpose a Roman Catholic mentality onto Orthodox Catholicism and, as a result, obtaining a very distorted understanding. What is important to Orthodox Catholic Christians is not whether some individual — even a patriarch — falls into heresy, but whether the Church accepted that heresy. Bishops have the duty to teach the truth, but the truth is ultimately guarded by all.

Fine, but you create your own difficulties here when you want to hold that sacraments administered by heretics are invalid. So when the 42 or so heretical patriarchs (not an exhaustive list, either) held reign in the main sees of the East, surely thousands of laymen were not receiving the needed grace they would have continued to receive in the Catholic understanding. Thus, faithful laypeople would have been penalized for the apostasy of the clergy. This is Donatism. Do you accept that designation? Do all Orthodox believe this, or just the anti-Catholic wing?

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Photo credit: AlLes (11-18-17) [PixabayPixabay License]

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