Thursday, August 26, 2010

An Orthodox (ex-Catholic) Reverts

Hat Tip: The Young Fogey

A convert with the online handle "Mexican" has returned to the Roman Church. First I think it important to say that conscience is an extremely important and personal matter. I do not fault him for obeying the dictates of his conscience provided it was not done precipitously and or without due prayer and spiritual discernment. Nor do I know to what extent he discussed his doubts with his spiritual father before taking this step. The bottom line is that it is not my place to judge him. I will however make a couple of quick observations about this from a somewhat broader perspective.

1. This is an ongoing problem within Orthodoxy. A significant percentage of converts wind up leaving, typically within the first three years. I think a great deal of this can be laid at the feet of a far too casual approach towards the catechumenate. Some (though by no means all) converts are being received into the Church too quickly. It is FAR FAR better for someone to stay out of the Church than enter only to leave later on. Apostasy is one of the most serious sins one can commit. Of course there will always be people who leave the Church. But the number of converts who apostatize is simply too high. We really need to tighten up on the manner in which we receive converts. A further reason why I believe baptism should be normative for converts. (Though I note in Mexican's case it did not stop him.)

2. I find it ironic that he is moving from Orthodoxy back into what he believes is the True Church via an organization that is not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church and which is de facto (if not perhaps de jure) schismatic. The priests of the SSPX have no faculties to hear confessions which means any absolution he received from them is considered invalid by Rome. Having come from the Roman Trad World myself I have some sympathy for how easy it is to get sucked into their world view. But it is a rather gloomy place full of dark conspiracy theories about Free Masons, Jews, Communists, invalid masses and the like. And like our Old Calendarists it is a movement that is forever fragmenting with ever crazier groups out there including sede vecantists and anti-pope's. One need only read some of the writings and statements of Bishop Williamson (SSPX) to get a flavor for what I am talking about. If you wander over to Rorate Caeli there are some posts up on Williamson's most recent musings. Far more interesting than the bishop's rather obvious attempt to torpedo the Rome - SSPX discussions are many of the comments posted by supporters of the bishop. The man is a well known anti-semite and Holocaust denier and yet he has a fairly loyal following in Trad World. That should say all that needs to be said.


Rubricarius said...

It does seem that the person is rather confused and I too would express the same concerns about his involvement with the SSPX.

What struck me though was his comment about how he had changed his views after attending Vespers. The cultural appeal of liturgy is not considered seriously enough IMO. Of course there is a danger of 'tat' over substance but it is still an important issue.

As an non-Orthodox, though someone highly sympathetic to Orthodoxy, I believe there is the potential for Orthodoxy to undertake a highly significant expansion in Western Europe and believe that part of that expansion should be with WRO. Rome has long failed to understand the link between orthopraxis and orthodoxy.

A thought anyway..

The Archer of the Forest said...

I, somewhat on a lark, attended what turned out to be an SSPX church a few years back. This was before the current pope who has lessened the restrictions on Mass in the Extraordinary Form, and I was interested in experiencing a true Tridentine Mass. The Phone Book said this congregation was Traditional Catholic, and not really having even been Roman Catholic myself, I decided to explore. I had attended a Catholic high school, so I knew some things about the Catholic church.

I had no idea what the SSPX was at the time, and after the service, I got invited down for some festival of some kind. There were a lot of kids there, and the bishop was playing with a pinata with them. It was a lot of fun.

I think I was initially was tipped off to the fact that something was not quite as advertised because I knew who the Catholic bishop of that Diocese was, and I knew it wasn't the guy I was looking at.

I remember I had a delightful conversation with some of the priests. They handed me some literature about how Vatican II had been a Protestant conspiracy, which was my second clue that things were not quite as advertised.

It was only after I got home and was examining all the material they gave me that I discovered it was SSPX, and when I researched that I found out what they were really all about. But, it really was a delightful evening, I can see how someone who was hungry for traditional parish life and liturgy could have been sucked into it.

Anonymous said...

I have long felt that evangelism is something today we ought do to for those already in attendance. All the stats in Western countries say, if you build a Church folks will check it out. You probably don't have to do any more work than make sure you are in the yellow pages and your building looks well-kept from the street.

The real work happens inside the building. If Orthodoxy merely kept a higher percentage of its own people it would grow faster than it could manage.

I'm not sure a more "serious" catechumenate is what we need (depending on what you mean by serious). Longer, doesn't mean more serious, and neither does more historical/Biblical/liturgical study that makes it so the converts kids can't be in AYSO (and what about people who aren't that bright or don't relate to things intellectually?). I think these are imitations of seriousness that we fall back on because they are easier for us and seem appropriately harder for the catechumen.

We Americans in particular are spiritual wimps (I know I am). Regardless of Orthodoxy being the faith of the martyrs, not everyone who may be capable of martyrdom someday is ready for it today. Frankly this means being extremely patient with catechumen and not using the catechumenate as a sort of carrot and stick.

Being a catechumen ought to be a personal thing and if the parish is too large for the priest to be an adequate support on his own (even in a small one he should not be) then your sponsor/Godparent ought to provide considerable support for the process.

You should enter the Church the day that taking the Eucharist is spiritually beneficial; not a day before and not a day after.

mjl said...

SSPX is crazy, and I'll admit that they are off the deep end. However, it needs to be stated that trying to remain a liturgically stable in Rome is a pain beyond belief. I am single, so I am able to comfort myself and continue to fight the good fight as best I can, but I can only imagine the frustrations of trying to raise a kid in the RCC. Even with what I said, recently I've started attending an Orthodox service in my neighborhood because the priest keeps denying sin and making other too-inane-to-be-heresy statements at the RCC.

A remnant mentality is never too far away from frustration in Rome, and it takes great humility to avoid the pride that makes one think they are some kind of final remnant of the true church. The bishops are without the spine and the liturgist are crazy, and if Rome doesn't fix it soon than I will not be surprised at the amount of people who defect to schismatic groups like SSPX.

Please, if you can, pray for the frustrated flocks in Rome that God will lead them and that frustration will not turn into pride.

Thanks for reading my rant.

Anonymous said...

I don't think he was returning to the Latins. He referred to not having to be baptized or confirmed, which would not have been a question if he had been baptized and confirmed by the Latins to begin with. Later in the thread a priest referred to him as a born Orthodox who was apostatizing. I think Y Fogey was the one to call him a revert. But it certainly is possible to be American or Mexican and be cradle Orthodox. By sons are cradle American Orthodox.

Fr Yousuf Rassam
Tarzana, CA

David said...

My experience is that there isn't a consistent enough "Church", my priest (a cradle), brought me into the church. After he left us we no longer had a parish and then it was on to parishes that were different and in some cases against what we were taught by our past priest. Then there are the churches that don't really want to do anything so there isn't an opportunity for a convert to become part of the interdependent church. In my mind if a convert has sufficient transportation there isn't a real reason to leave the church, just move on to where you are welcome and I truly believe there are more parishes that are welcoming than those that aren't.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Fr Yousuf,
Good catch. After reading most of the comments on the site, I think you are probably correct.