Thursday, January 24, 2008

Trad Catholics & Orthodoxy

From time to time I get comments or questions concerning so called Traditionalist Roman Catholics and their feeling towards Orthodoxy. The general thrust is usually one of "we can talk with these people, they speak our language." My response is normally skeptical. Not because I disagree with their attachment to the ancient liturgy of the Western Church. I commend it strongly. Nor because I think they are evil people (although there are some whose moral compass is dangerously out of wack, but we have groups like that too). Indeed I used to be an SSPXer for the better part of two decades (mea culpa mea culpa...).

My reason for skepticism is because way too many of the Trads are hard core Unam Sanctum types. Their respect for Orthodoxy is limited to a grudging nod to our liturgy and that's about as far as it goes. Many, perhaps a majority, harbor a hostility towards Orthodoxy that is on par with or even greater than that which they harbor towards Protestants because they see us as being so close and they are infuriated by our obstinate refusal to kneel and kiss the Pope's ring.

Case in point: One of the web sites I periodically check out is Rorate Caeli. This is a solidly Trad web site which often gets really good scoops on news from Rome. You can get some remarkable insights into the various elements of the often sharply divided Trad movement by reading the com boxes there. From time to time the site owner will post a story that touches on Orthodoxy and this generally elicits some pretty frank expressions of their true feeling towards us. These comments make James Likoudis and Diane (well known to Orthodox and Catholic bloggers alike) appear the very embodiment of ecumenical moderation. In witness I will post two comments in their entirety in response to the most recent post by the site owner. The post was from a newspaper interview with Patriarch +Alexeii of Moscow in which +Alexeii spoke of Pope +Benedict XVI in highly complimentary terms.

Anonymous said...

Man...some of you folks are just plain mean spirited...nasty!

Peter has spoken the cause is finished...

For the crime of schism is worse than that which they commit who have offered sacrifice, who, nevertheless, have been disposed to penance for their sins prayed to God with the fullest satisfaction; in the other the Church is opposed. So in this case he who has fallen, has injured only himself; in the other, who attempts to cause a schism deceives many by dragging them with himself. In this case there is the loss of one soul; in the other their is danger to many. Certainly the one knows he has sinned and laments and bewails it; the other puffed up with pride in his sin is pluming himself on the sins themselves, separates sons from their mother, seduces sheep from their shepherds, disturbs the sacraments of God, and, whereas the former having stumbled sinned once, the latter sins daily. Lastly although the lapsed, if afterwards he acquired martyrdom, is able to secure the promises of the kingdom; if the other is slain outside of the Church, he cannot attain to the rewards of the Church.

-Pope Pelagius II c. 585 in a letter to the schismatic bishops of Istria regarding the necessity of union with the Church.

Nasty? I think not! The last time I checked the Patriarch of Moscow was not in union with Rome. We should ignore him. Why should Catholics need the "support" of a schismatic whose "tradition" of willful separation from the unity of the Church jeopardizes his everlasting salvation?

j hughes dunphy said...

The Council of Florence taught infallibly, "The Most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews, heretics (protestants), and schismatics can ever be partakers of eternal life, but that they are to go into the eternal fire 'which was prepared for the devil and his angels,' (Mat. 25:41) unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this Ecclesiastical Body, that only those remaining within this unity can profit from the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and that they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, alms deeds and other works of Christian piety and duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his alms giving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved unless they abide within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church."

Part of the "apostasy" that the Catholic Church is going through currently stems from the undermining of this infallible and unchangeable teaching of the Church.

Fr Pavone, you hinder the "salvation of souls" when you declare publicly that ecumenism is good and that Protestants are "real Christians". There is no "real" Church outside of the Catholic Church. All other so-called Christian churches are "false churches" under Satan. If you are going to talk about protestants, it would be more beneficial to the salvation of their souls and to the salvation of dissident Catholics to warn them that they must convert to or revert back to the Catholic Church for salvation before their time on earth is up.

This sort of vitriol is hardly unusual when Orthodoxy pops up as a topic of conversation over there. And it is why I remain profoundly skeptical when Orthodox think of Roman Catholic Traditionalists as a possible bridge to improved relations with Rome. They are really Rome's Old Calendarists. Sadly most of them didn't even recognize the humor when I once suggested their sede vecantists should do lunch with our Radical Old Calendarists, they have so much in common.

My general view is that we Orthodox should ignore the so called Traditionalists. Their disputes with Rome are fundamentally an internal matter for the Latin Church and there is no justification for sticking our nose into this conflict. With a few rare exceptions Trads are not our friends or simply Western Rite Orthodox who haven't gotten over the Pope yet. While it might be interesting to watch from a distance, we have no dog in this fight.


tizzidale said...

I've many dealings with both Dianne and James Likoudis, and for you (as an aside) to excoriate them is quite telling. I came to Catholicism through a brief but beautiful stay in the Orthodox Church. However, the anti-ecumenical feelings of the majority of Orthodox Christians I've known makes Likoudis and Dianne look downright optimistic. At least they believe in a possible union. They may not present their positions the way you would prefer. Yet, most Orthodox Christians I've known, both personally and online (particularly those who are converts to Orthodoxy ) have little to no desire for unity.

I've learned much from your blog over the time I've been a regular reader, but there are things about you and your prejudices I wish I could unlearn. Particularly today.

Anonymous said...

You know I was just reading rorate caeli before coming onto your blog and was pleasantly surprised that you put up this new topic which was exactly what I wanted to address to you personally.

I am a Roman Catholic. Please continue posting on Rorate Caeli even if you find it a very challenging, upsetting and futile. If we do not persist in understanding what Unity entails then we can never hope to have that Unity which only God can give.

Needless to say, I do believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the True Church of Christ, but we mortals cannot fathom just how great this mystery can be. Only God knows how to heal the 'schism' that we accuse each other of.

No mere human understanding can undo the schism. Much prayer is needed. And I am certainly not giving up with easy bigoted answers.

Keep it up

John (Ad Orientem) said...

I regret that my post seems to have struck a nerve with you. I am not certain that I concur that most Orthodox are anti-ecumenical. In some parts of the old country that is certainly true. But even there attitudes are changing. Here in the United States I think there is a general openness to the talks with the Roman Church. I will qualify that statement by acknowledging that this openness is much more limited among the smaller and more conservative jurisdictions (ROCOR and the Serbians) and also among some converts. I find this latter group among Catholics similarly ill disposed to ecumenical dialogue.

That said, most Orthodox are not opposed to discussions with Rome. However most have the same attitude that is mirrored by very reasonable Roman Catholics like Mike Liccione that unity can not be accomplished at the expense of truth. Compromise and tolerance on matters of discipline are one thing. Doctrine is a whole different ballgame. The major complication to restoring communion is that Rome has added to the faith as it was understood in the first millennium. Orthodoxy has not. Since Rome cannot restore communion absent acquiescence to her doctrinal innovations, and Orthodoxy cannot restore communion with anyone who proclaims as dogma something which it understands to be inconsistent with the consensus patrum we have a problem.

Acknowledging that problem does not make one bigoted or even anti-ecumenical. But realism and a healthy dose of honesty remain the only way to approach the very real issues which divide us. Papering over those differences or trying to ram acceptance of one side's position down the throat of the other has been attempted before with dismal results that almost certainly did great long term harm.

My objection to James Likoudis and Diane is not that they hold strong opinions. Most of us who bother blogging about our faith do. My problem is the rather in your face manner in which they tend to present their views. Diane particularly is drawn to com box conflict like metal to a magnet. And if a battle does not already exist she is not above instigating one.

Yes, in fairness we have our polemicists too. And I have little enough time for them either. Yes there is a time for expressing strongly worded disagreement and even reproofs. One need only read my occasional posts on what’s going on in the Episcopal Church to see that I am not above making a firm point when I think it is called for. But in all my life I have never met anyone converted by polemics. It is agape and not fiery condemnations or snide comments which draw the wounded soul to Christ.


Anonymous said...

People like this, on either side of the Rome/Constantinople divide, make me very sad. At times it seems civility is not even an option--that somehow asking for civility is itself hostility, because, hey, they're not the ones causing the problem.

Are there nastily anti-Catholic Orthodox? Sure. Are there nastily anti-Orthodox Catholics? Yep. That doesn't mean we have to either a) be those people ourselves or b) assume somebody is one of them until they prove otherwise.


Anonymous said...

The ultra-trads seem to be a contradiction in terms. Are they in schism from their own "side?" If not, they have to deal with the fact that even Rome teaches that Orthodoxy has a valid episcopate and valid sacraments. So, if "only those remaining within this unity can profit from the sacraments of the Church unto salvation," I guess the Orthodox are OK, according to the Trads' own communion - right?

Anonymous said...

I had made a long comment,but it didn't get i;ll be brief.

I attend an SSPX chapel sometimes, but don't agree completely to their official position. Unfortunately, I don't think reconcilliation with Rome is possible for the SSPX is possible if Bishop Williamson has his way.

Essentially, a lot of trads have a very neat theory of things. There is a thick black line enclosing what they call the traditional faith. Surprise,surprise, they are in it and the rest aren't. This includes pretty much everyone else in the Latin Church.

And Phil, just because the SSPX are excommunicated legally does not mean they have the same sympathies for the Orthodox. The SSPX have a view that the Church is in a state of emergency and that they are guardians of Tradition. They will not even associate themselves with those who support their cause 'in' the Church. Many trads opine that they are more Roman than Rome even if they (and thank God) do not claim to be a New Church with a New Pope the way Protestants divided themselves into.

Personally, I yearn for the day when Full Communion is possible for the Orthodox and Catholic traditions. Only God knows how this will happen. What it requires of us is to be 'vulnerable' and open to His graces.


Visibilium said...

A good reason why Orthodox Patriarchs feel compelled to talk to the Vatican is their attempt to resolve the Uniat problem--you know, the Crusader's promotion of Uniat-style apostasy in Orthodox countries. Since I'm not a Patriarch, I don't see any reason to engage in generalized ecumenical discussions with Latins.

I'll discuss all sorts of topics with whomever, but I don't see any need for any special effort to promote "understanding".

Anonymous said...

Take a trip to and you'll find exactly the same attitudes as the Anti-Orthodox Catholic Trads. I'm Orthodox myself and dislike both the Catholic and Orthodox extremes that are being raised in this discussion. I find it's not so much the views one holds as it is the way one expresses them. Diane, James Likoudis, "Anonymous" and J Hughes Dunphy are good examples of com-box fundamentalist preaching that lacks the courtesy and nuance that makes online discussion fair and intelligible.

Words such as "schismatic" and "schism" can be used fairly in such discussions but they need to be carefully used and usually qualified in some sense. They certainly do not need to be preached in a patronizing fashion by either Catholics or Orthodox.

In Him,

John (Ad Orientem) said...

I concur with your sentiments. And although I think there is a wealth of material on OrthodoxInfo its extremist positions and clear sympathy for Old Calendarism makes are the major reasons why I decline to link an otherwise excellent Orthodox site in the side bar of Ad Orientem.


Anonymous said...

I believe that it was the saintly Archbishop Sheen who stated that we divided Christians perhaps will never be united in a common celebration of the Eucharist, but it is imperative that we be united on our knees seeking the Forgiveness and mercy of God.

Some years ago I was in Jerusalem, and was attending an early morning
Divine Liturgy at the Tomb of the Theotokos, which we all know is empty. Shortly after the Greek clergy began the Liturgy, The Armenians began their Liturgy at another altar, soon to be joined by the Syriac clergy who were serving in their Rite at another altar. Soon after the Coptic and Ethiopian clergy began their Liturgy at a fourth altar beheind me. The mix of the chants was one of the most beautiful experiences that I have ever had. I looked up at an ikon of the Panagia Mother of God. As I prayed I smiled at her saying, Dear Mother although your divied children may not concelebrate, nevertheless through their common love for you and your Son they do CO-celebrate the Divine Sacrifce of your Son. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Trad Caths are Old Calendarists but more like Old Believers.

There's nothing sacrosanct about the Tridentine Liturgy or Latin. Attachment to these show an ignorance of Catholicism's history.

As for Orthodox blogs- many are quite irenic but there are some that are quite misleading.

One blog site prooftexts patristic sources in order to buttress theological opinions as Orthodox dogma. This is ironic since the blog denounces scholastic theology.
The result is that the comments form a circle of approval without reflection. Pointing this out results in being ignored or worse.

There's Catholic blogs that do the same thing.

Sad. There can be no real dialogue if this practice continues unabated.

Visibilium said...

Wow. Old Calendarism is an extreme position? I've never considered Old Calendarism to be an extreme position, but rather a position that is well within an Orthodox mainstream that likewise contains New Calendarism. Although I currently belong to a new-calendar parish, I see nothing wrong with celebrating Christmas in January.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

This from Wikipedia since you seem somewhat confused by the terms I employed.

The term Old Calendarist refers to any Orthodox Christian or any Orthodox Church body which uses the historic Julian calendar (called "Old Style Calendar" or "Church calendar" or "Old Calendar"), and whose Church body is not in communion with the Orthodox Churches that use the New Calendar. The "Old Calendarists" (who are also sometimes styled "Old Calendar") are to be distinguished from Orthodox Christians or Orthodox Church bodies which are on the Old Calendar. The latter use the historic Julian calendar cited above, but are in communion with the Orthodox Churches that use the New Calendar. Thus, to be "Old Calendarist" or "Old Calendar" is not the same thing as being "on the Old Calendar"; and the Russian Orthodox Church, for instance, is not Old Calendarist (or Old Calendar), but it is on the Old Calendar. There are a great many Orthodox Christians who are (or who belong to Churches that are) on the Old Calendar, but far fewer in number are the Orthodox Christians who are Old Calendar or Old Calendarist.

For the record, I have a personal preference for the old calendar. But unlike "Old Calendarists" I do not regard the new calendar as heretical.


Anonymous said...

Phil, I would point out that the Western view of the sacraments means that even though a schismatic may have the sacraments they are illicit and thus, potentially, could bring the wrath of God upon those who partake.

I do not believe that this is the situation vis-a-vis the Orthodox Church, a tradition I admire very much and think has a lot to teach the modern Latins a thing or two about Tradition and liturgy.

I will just ask though, what is the Orthodox's problem with definitions past 1000AD? It is not as if the Churches authority to define dogma suddenly ended at that point? Luther, for example, said things about Scripture and authority which all orthodox Christians, Latin or Greek, would agree are heretical. What is wrong with making definitions to repel the error? No definition by Rome is made with out reference to tradition. Just because some Orthodox may disagree does not mean WE are being untraditional. For example both mortalism and immortalism vis-a-vis the assumption are licit beliefs but if the Pope declared that the former was now dogma he would not be contradicting tradition he would be ending a dispute.

On the side: I don't get the rage about Uniates. If re-union were achieved these Churches should be returned to the control of their Patriarchs in the east. For now they think that a higher power calls them to disobedience to there Patriarchs. I would expect 'Western Orthodox" would say the same about Rome.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

The problem with definitions post 1054 AD is that they were made in a manner inconsistent with the consensus patrum. Ecumenical Councils lawfully convened whose decrees are over time received by the Church as a whole are the normative method for resolving issues.

Rome's actions do not (from the Orthodox POV) adhere to this formula and over a period of many centuries developed the view that the Pope is the final word on doctrine. Thus we have the 8th oecumenical council (Constantinople 879-880AD) which was recognized by Rome and the papacy for the better part of two centuries before Rome reversed itself and disavowed the council. This was not surprising since the council forbade in very strong language tampering with the Creed.

All of Rome's subsequent councils excepting Florence and Lyons (both of which were not received by the Orthodox faithful) were held without participation of the Eastern Churches. Most Orthodox would argue that Lutheranism and the various other manifestations of Protestantism were the logical consequence of the Latin Church's drift from the patristic faith and its embrace of highly questionable schools of theology, notably scholasticism.

With respect to Uniatism, I think that remains a sore subject among the local churches in Eastern Europe since it is a modern day reminder of the policy of aggressive proselytizing by the Latin Church in Orthodox countries. Also it must be noted that many of the Uniate churches were not restored to the Roman communion of their own free will. In fairness Rome has over the last half century disavowed Uniatism in its dealing with Orthodoxy. But the Uniates nonetheless remain and Rome does not seem to know what to do with them.


Anonymous said...

Well we can hardly give them back! :P

I must say that I also do not see how scholasticism is in any way questionable. It is simply a system of reason - the can be no opposition between faith and reason so the use of true reason, with Tradition and Scripture, could not possibly bring you to heretical ideas. The suspicion of this is a very bad thing as it means that one just ends up as some sort of mindless fundamentalist. Personally I think that is okay if one is some uneducated peasant but for the Colleges and Seminaries to try to explain the sacred mystery's with God-given reason is fine. Provided it does not contradict revelation even hyper-rationalism (which the east seems to see as some sort of problem) is good. So, St Thomas explaining transubstantiation is a good thing, what has the Church of God to fear from truth? Nothing.

Visibilium said...

Thanks for clarifying your use of the Old Calendarist term. My personal preference would be to include "schismatic" or "noncanonical" in my reference to the extremists, but I'll keep in mind the wiki's attempt to standardize the language.

RC acquaintances have invited me to attend a Uniat liturgy and coffee hour. The only reason why I'm considering accepting is my idle curiosity about the extent of its Latinization. I should definitely skip the coffee hour. Some folks may get ruffled at my response to an "Orthodox in communion with Rome" assertion.

New Catholic said...

Ad Orientem,

Thank you so much for visiting our humble blog. I truly love your interventions and I believe our posts on the Eastern Orthodox have been very respectful - and though I try to keep the debate in the comment boxes as civil as possible, it is very hard to find the balance between a firm moderation and a healthy debate when such passionate issues are discussed.

You are always welcome there!

Wishing that the most holy Mother of God may intercede before her Son for you and your family,

John (Ad Orientem) said...

New Catholic,
Thanks for dropping by. I really do enjoy your website even if some of the comments there occasionally get my blood pressure up. Most of the time I tend to ignore them. We have the same sorts on our side of the fence too sorry to say.


Unknown said...

The way we look at it, those of us Antiochians in the Western Rite, look at ourselves as maintaining a traditional western liturgy... in communion with the See of Peter... the FIRST see of Peter ;) and that our style of worship may offer a view of what a re-united Western church's worship might look like.... just as perhaps the Roman Catholics feel the Uniates present a path for the East to re-unite under Rome.

My guess is that a resurrected Church incorporating both Roman Catholics and Orthodox will bear the wounds, but shine with a different glory than either now recognizes. The risks lie in settling for something less than guidance and inspiration of the Grace of the Holy Spirit... and thus make a re-joined Church should be more than the sum of its parts, more than an apparent end to a political disagreement finally buried, and more than signing on to certain aspects of one or the other that presently seem as an anathema to one or the other.... else a convergence must of necessity be insincere and fail. I do not pretend to comprehend what this might really look like... but am prepared to accept that the engagement required to fulfill this process is far deeper than we typically tend to give it credit as representing. And in this, I guess I tend as well to doubt that cheerleading our respective sides in this is the most constructive thing we can offer.

That said, I believe the untraditionalist and in fact dangerous element of the Trad movement is the same that undermined the Anglocatholic movement in the Anglican Church... the sense of a destiny in restoring a traditional expression of piety in disobedience to one's bishops just has its limits... and ultimately leads nowhere even when there is merit in the intent.

Anonymous said...

John, Webster's defines cognitive dissonance as a psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously. It often manifest itself in the person being "tightly wound".

This the Trads suffer from. The full legal and canonical might and power of the Papacy was used to impose the Novus Ordo and Vatican II, which they reject. Yet how can they reject the NO and Vatican II, and not reject the Papacy in all its Vatican I formulations? Hence the CD.

For Orthodox, this is a no-brainer, perhaps because we are a little more schooled in wayward clerics. And this only adds to the Trads getting so irrational with Orthodox, for they know what we are saying: "See, we are not unfamiliar with innovation from Rome. We have long said that Innovation's Home is Rome. Have we not been predicting what you have experienced these last 40 years?"

That being said, we must all thank Arch Lefebrve for his courage in the 60s and 70s. Without him, there would be a whole lot less of the great patrimony of the West. May his memory be eternal!

Anonymous said...

How is it fair that you get to condemn Catholic proselytizing when you are a Westerner who is Eastern Rite - that is totally wrong! You live and come from WESTERN canonical territory. You should be at least Western Rite Orthodox (which, by the way, is a clear example of eastern proselytizing).

Young fogey emeritus said...

RC acquaintances have invited me to attend a Uniat liturgy and coffee hour. The only reason why I'm considering accepting is my idle curiosity about the extent of its Latinization. I should definitely skip the coffee hour. Some folks may get ruffled at my response to an "Orthodox in communion with Rome" assertion.

Most Greek Catholics (meaning 'Greek Rite' - most are Slavs and Arabs) are culturally and in their thinking Roman Catholics who use a different Mass. As for latinisations it's fairly easy to tell most Greek Catholics apart from the Orthodox - it's what they want. You won't hear 'Orthodox in communion with Rome' from them, ever.

You might if you pressed the matter from the few converts to that church (from the Roman Rite, from Protestantism or from nothing), whose practice also is more like the Orthodox. But because they like the Orthodox so much they also won't want to pick a fight with you.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Anonymous (the last one),
I think you are misunderstanding my point. I am not condemning the presence of Roman Catholics in Russia or other Orthodox countries. Rather I am making a point about the artificial creation of churches designed to draw off Orthodox Christians. As far as I know the Russian Church has never had any major problems (at least in modern times) with Latin Rite Catholics.

Here in North America, Russian missionaries were arriving roughly in the same time frame as Roman Catholics were settling in Maryland. So that is not an issue. The Orthodox complaint is not the existence of Roman Catholics in otherwise Orthodox countries. It is with the efforts by Catholics to convert Orthodox Christians through the creation of psuedo-Orthodox churches that while maintaining (to sharply varying degrees) the external forms of Byzantine worship nonetheless adopted the dogmas of the Latin Church.

There is no parallel for this in Orthodoxy including our Western Rite (which is not a separate church). The only time in the history of N. America where there was a significant migration of Catholics into the Orthodox Church was in the early part of the last century when your Latin Rite bishops attempted to suppress the Eastern Rite Catholics here in the United States and forbade them to have their own churches clergy or liturgical customs. Bishop John Ireland (often referred to by Orthodox as the patron saint of the OCA) was exceptionally hard nosed and disparaging in his treatment of the Uniates. This treatment drove many of them back into the Orthodox Church.


GK Chesterton said...

"the external forms of Byzantine worship nonetheless adopted the dogmas of the Latin Church"

Wouldn't an Eastern Catholic disagree with such a statement? No Eastern Catholic I've met (thought there have been few) has felt that the Pope has full dogmatic authority nor that the modern Latin councils were ecumenical. While there may be a few non-Eastern Eastern Catholics running around they would appear to be in the intellectual minority.