Wednesday, July 24, 2013

OK, maybe it's just me....

Maybe I am being overly sensitive or just visiting the wrong blogs. But am I the only one noticing an uptick in anti-Orthodox snark or outright attacks on the Church in the blogosphere of late? A lot of it seems to be coming from the Catholic corner.

Granted there have always been bomb throwers in both churches. But it just seems like it's spreading to what are, or were, more mainstream blogs lately. What gives?

Comments are now closed. If you have a comment you think adds to the discussion please email me. Thanks to everyone for your input.

39 comments:

M. Jordan Lichens said...

We Catholics are feeling under attack because our bishops' stupidity finally made the poo hit the fan. Seeing, John, that you were in the SSPX, I bet you can understand the pressure of being traditional and defending a Church that keeps up the stupid.

That being said, there has been some Orthodox gloating. Made more annoying by the fact that the Eastern Church hasn't kept their house in great order. I'm not trying to play, "But timmy did it first," but you can see why the snark is going up. It's much easier to be an asshat then to have to correct your own issues, and we Romans are following form.

It is odd, though. What, specifically, are you referring to.



Anonymous said...

It might be because the Orthodox keep playing the holier than you card.

Or if you are referring to liberal Catholics, they think that Rome's stance on WO and gays is because they want to suck up to the Orthodox.

As, one blog said, "Make no mistake this is about the Patriarchy"



Savvy

August said...

I haven't noticed. I would think that I would notice, because I think we (RC) are probably erring whenever we try walking farther away.

But then again, much depends on the quality of the post. If they start off rambling and boring, I am likely to stop reading before they get to the bomb throwing part.

modestinus said...

It's called pushback, John. Deal with it.

In my nine or so years hanging around the blogosphere (seven of which I was Orthodox), there was never a shortage of Orthodox snark against Catholicism -- and there still isn't. The biggest difference between today and then is that there are more (not many, but more) ex-Orthodox Catholic bloggers/blog participants out there that are capable of calling Orthodoxy on a lot of its B.S., particularly the sort of Americanized Orthodoxy you find online. (Though I likely fail, I do try to take some pains to distinguish between one million American Orthodox and the 259 million other Orthodox in the world.) Orthodox don't like that, or at least most don't because Orthodoxy in America lives off a fountain of myths that is, finally, starting to dry up. Good. If Orthodoxy is going to live, it needs to do so in step with reality, and part of that reality is recognizing that Catholicism is not the Great Satan that is out to destroy it. However, at some point Catholics (me included) get tired of the same old Protestant-style B.S. that emanates out of the usual corners of your church.

Granted, you can't stop everything and there are always going to be naysayers, but there is no way you can look me in the eye and tell me that there is not a grossly disproportionate amount of anti-Catholicism among Orthodox blogs and websites. In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if, in real numbers, there are far more anti-Catholic posts on Orthodox blogs total than there are anti-Orthodox posts on Catholic blogs total. Moreover, while I am sure I am a bit biased here, I find that most of the anti-Orthodox commentary coming from Catholic blogs at least takes the Orthodox for what they are rather than dipping into a grab-bag of caricatures and straw men in order to make their critiques seem more powerful. The Orthodox have a hard time doing that, perhaps because so few in your pool have ever bothered to take a careful look at what the Catholic Church says, does, and think. There are exceptions, of course, and it doesn't surprise me that those exceptions tend to be the ones among your confession-mates who are most sympathetic to Rome.

As I have always maintained throughout my critical posts/comments on Orthodoxy, I abide by my Church's teaching with respect to what the Orthodox Church is. I refuse, however, to wear rose-colored glasses (which, ironically, some traditionalist Catholics do with respect to Orthodoxy, and yet they are afraid to jump ship). If your confession wants to keep getting in the ring to throw jabs, don't cry when your target comes back with haymakers.

Michael said...

"The biggest difference between today and then is that there are more (not many, but more) ex-Orthodox Catholic bloggers/blog participants out there ..."

I think that explains a lot.

Orthodoxy in America had a period when many people, who were disaffected with their prior confessions, came into the Church to escape a bad situation. In my opinion, that is the worst possible reason to join a church.

In my case, I was raised mainline Protestant, and rejected that in my adolescence. I spent many years of my adult life outside any Christian confession at all. When I came to the Orthodox church in mid-life, I did not have as much "baggage" as some others did. I did a lot of research, tested the claims of the Roman Catholics, the Church of England and the Orthodox (the Protestants, I wrote off as having no doctrine of the church at all), and decided that the claims of Orthodoxy were the strongest.

I ignored any disputes about "who was the bigger sinner." For me, doctrine and living tradition were all that mattered.

Thus, I had no anti-Catholic or anti-Episcopalian bitterness when I joined. I think these two confessions are mistaken, for a variety of reasons. However, I feel no compulsion to pick fights with either of them. As a tonsured Reader in my parish, I have dealings with Protestant and Catholic parishes in my area, and we have excellent relations with everybody.

As for those who came in due to Vatican II or the apostasy of the Episcopalians, I am not surprised that they have not stayed. I think we have here a case of "negative identity" (that is, defining who you are in terms of who you are not). That is a very thin reed with which to support a faith.

The fact that such people become disillusioned, leave and feel bitter about it afterwards is sad, but unsurprising. If they want to vituperate on their own blogs, so be it. However, when such people start trolling in the comboxes of other people's blogs, to try to start fights and push people's emotional buttons, then I think they should be banned. The proper place for people to sort out their psychological issues is either in psychotherapy or in a support group, not on-line.

modestinus said...

Michael,

Maybe, but I also think it's a bit of a cheap shot to say that everybody who left Orthodoxy entered for shallow reasons (and hence left for shallow reasons). There are some of those, of course, but there are also many -- and I would include myself here -- who entered Orthodoxy thinking it was "X" and it turned out to be "Y" -- and by "X" I don't mean a paradise church, by the way. Of course I really don't know if it is fair to lump my experience in with some of the others I have read about. I left Catholicism for bad reasons when I was 19 and, when I came back to Christ at 23, my immediate family had become Orthodox. Since I spent years as an Eastern Catholic growing up, Orthodoxy seemed like an obvious answer to me. The "problem" was that I never developed the requisite hostility toward Catholicism (or its claims) that seems to be expected within many Orthodox circles, and so the "glamor of Orthodoxy" wore off for me. It wasn't an easy choice to leave, but I don't regret it. In fact, I don't even regret having been there. As one quite traditional Catholic priest of some minor celebrity told me when I came back into his parish, "You were where you needed to be at the time." And I think he was right. None of that means, though, that I am hand-cuffed from pushing back against the Orthodox when they come after Catholicism.

Perhaps this will be studied in 10-15 years, but I imagine that Orthodoxy will continue to see defections from its "convert wave," perhaps because, like me, people came in expecting something that simply was not true. It's far, far easier for Orthodoxy to cover its warts than Catholicism, at least in this part of the world where most Christians probably don't even know what the Orthodox Church is (except, maybe, the national religion of Greece and Russia). Who is to blame for that? I suppose it depends. I am thankful that I was brought into Orthodoxy by a priest who told it straight, but I knew a lot of priests in my time who rarely, if ever did (perhaps out of ignorance, perhaps because they were desperate to sell what they were preaching -- I am not sure). Were Orthodox less anti-Catholic, then maybe I wouldn't have reached that tipping point which prompted me to leave. Once I started getting the lines about how my departed Catholic relatives (including my grandparents) were probably in hell for not being Orthodox, the last strands of hesitation fell away. God be praised.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

One observation that I will make, is that it seems a disproportionate amount of the snark and attacks on both sides, seem to come from converts and reverts. There must be some psychological need to justify moving to Rome or Orthodoxy from the other that impels some to take shots at their former spiritual home. Personally I find that sort of convertitis both regrettable, and distasteful.

John (Ad Orientem) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John (Ad Orientem) said...

Modestinus
I cannot imagine where you were received into Orthodoxy or went to Church. It sounds like a caricature of radical Old Calendarism. I have a lot of experience with Greeks OCA and Antiochians and have never encountered any of the truly repulsive vitriol to which you were apparently subjected.

May God forgive those who drive people from the Church through such lack of charity.

Anonymous said...

Probably false flag attacks to divide the two groups.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

My little corner of the internet features at least two Orthodox, Serge and Owen who left Orthodoxy to become Catholic just in the past couple of years. Modestinus seems pretty recent as well. All three seem to spend a great deal of time explaining why they're Catholic instead of Orthodox, or dredging corners of internet Orthodox commentary.

123 said...

I think it's simply due to a handful of ex- or disaffected Orthodox who are relatively active bloggers. First, the critiques land because they come with some experience and knowledge of the Orthodox, but it then also gives a sort of green light and ammo to others who didn't know enough to be able to critique. At the end of the day it really is just push back on some of the more hagiographic and simplistic apologetics of Orthodoxy - though to be fair a lot of that has been focused on Protestants so most swipes at Rome are simply accidental for Protestant inquirers or baggage from ex-Protestant Orthodox simply rolling out the old saw without thinking.

Orthodoxy can look very extreme, if you look for the extremes and spend most of your time with a nose in certain books and corners of the internet. There's a lot of trying on of varying arguments or poses, but nothing is really 'official' when it comes to interconfessional apologetics in Orthodoxy, it's mainly all theologoumena (whether popular, pastoral, or even academic).

And, of course, it's always fun to pretend like because there's effectively no Orthodox in the West that there are no Orthodox and their position can be ignored. It's then easy to be snarky in the face of what then seem like inflated claims. Numbers seem to always be at the base of such dismissals ("your entire jurisdiction is smaller than my parish!"), and purposeful ignorance of the nominal membership and low percentage of church-going for all involved ("most Russians don't go to church regularly!" - like most Italians do, I guess). Part of it also simply has to do with whether you think having a code of canon law and an official catechism means your faith is obviously better - because it's more organized, I guess. Orthodoxy never has been that, even when it was in communion with Rome (when Rome never had that either).

Michael said...

@123: "Orthodoxy can look very extreme, if you look for the extremes and spend most of your time with a nose in certain books and corners of the internet."

Very, very true, indeed!

Every so often, I meet enquirers into Orthodoxy who first became aware of such through on-line forums, blogs and websites. I invariably tell them, that if they want to understand our faith, that they need to go to a real parish and receive instruction from a flesh-and-blood priest, as soon as they can. Do-it-yourself, on-line catechesis doesn't cut it.

I see a fair number of "Ortho" blogs, run by people who clearly seem to have no relationship with an actual parish, and/or no confessional relationship to a priest or elder. This is most pronounced in the so-called "True Orthodox" or "Old Calendar" jurisdictions, where the clergy outnumber the faithful, and whose flock appear to be mostly "virtual."

As a source of information, the Internet is a Godsend. However, as a source of community, it is completely fake.

Samn! said...

I think Modestinus' perspective is shaped by his attraction to the types of extremes that make really cut-and-dry claims about things. So, just as he's now into whatever kind of weird, marginal traditionalist Catholicism, he was also as an Orthodox most into the kinds of weird, marginal traditionalist Orthodox who'll damn your grandparents. Neither of which, for the record, is cool or representative.

I also don't think that the Ochlophobist's polemics about certain kinds of Orthodoxy are because of some newfound pro-Roman stance...

Any any snark that ROCOR gets for having let an unsupervised coven act like a vagante Anglican grouplet is well deserved. But, they know this and are taking the necessary steps to not let that happen again. One hopes.

Archimandrite Gregory said...

John,

if one goes to some of the more Trad Catholic sites, the snarkiness there against the Pope and others in the RC Church is I believe even greater. Frustrated people, feeling betrayed by that which they hold dearest, can often be like a woman or man scorned. I tend to not read those kinds of comments.

modestinus said...

A few things...

First, some of the most vitriolic anti-Roman rhetoric I ever heard came from parishioners and clergy in the OCA and Antiochian dioceses, respectively. The most "extreme" group in Orthodoxy I ever associated with is ROCOR, and that's mainly because their Vigils at the local cathedral were magnificent. ROCOR folk, for what it's worth, seemed to be the least bothered by my departure for Catholicism. It was the "moderates" (mostly converts, but still "moderates" in a jurisdictional sense) who looked at me like I was committing some great apostasy.

Second, the Orthodox have nobody to blame but themselves for criticism. I am not sure which websites 123 reads, but outside of some apologetic literature, most "anti-Western" Orthodox material is directed at Rome, not the various Protestant sects. There are plenty of ex-Protestant Orthodox who speak glowingly about their past and actively work to blend some form of Protestant/Evangelical worldview with their present Orthodoxy. Unsurprisingly this leads to anti-Roman rhetoric.

Third, while I understand he has a hard time keeping distinctions in place, being critical of Sam's pet liberal intellectual projects and orientations -- the sort one can find in both Orthodoxy and Catholicism -- is a separate matter from being critical of Orthodoxy per se. Even if I were Orthodox, I wouldn't be particularly fond of the Scrambled Egg Revue (or whatever it's called). Now that I am Catholic, I don't feel at all compelled to comment on its contents, which are undercooked and drippy.

Last, the "relatives damned to hell" stuff was the tipping point, not my primary reason. In simplest terms, I was no longer convinced that the Orthodox polemic against Catholicism held up under much scrutiny. Once that was in place, I realized I had no reason not to be Catholic and the rest, as they say, is history. Given how invested I was in Orthodoxy (including my parish during the time I was struggling to make a decision), it was not, by any means, a light choice. I remain convinced, however, that it was the right one.

Anyway, let me solemnly declare from this moment that when the mainstream of Orthodox blogdom turns off the anti-Catholic snark, I'll do the same with the (American) Orthodox. Like I noted on my blog, Orthodoxy is literally 99.996% non-American. Many of them may dislike Catholics, too, but at least they do it with integrity. The boutique-bougeoise religious posturing gets old quickly.

The young fogey said...

What Modestinus has said. For 10 of my blog's 11 years it hasn't been Orthodox, and after coming back to the church I avoided the topic for a year to cool off. I'm where I am because it doesn't teach you to hate the other tradition. (I'm actually rather pro-Russian.) That said, Orthodox anti-Catholicism, both face time and especially online (almost always converts), soured me so much on Byzantium that I'm Roman Rite. Finally, related to John's and Modestinus' observations about blogs, and the popularity of Owen's blogs over recent years, my posts comparing the two churches are very popular; John's promoted them here.

Teena H. Blackburn said...

There's a lot going on here. First, to criticize one another is not necessarily to hate one another, although I've seen plenty of contempt for the other on both sides. We have real issues dividing us, and to pretend otherwise is silly. (2) The fact that both Orthodox and Protestants reject the papacy as it is currently understood doesn't mean anything, really-what matters is if a Protestant gets ready to convert to RC or Orthodoxy, that they give both sides an honest hearing. Many Protestants become Catholic, but it should not surprise anyone if Protestants also often believe Orthodoxy is right on this one. (3) I'm not really sure what myths converts to Orthodoxy are supposed to be riding on, or how those myths, if they exist, are any different from the myths people take on when they become RC. I have been both Catholic and Orthodox, and I can tell you many converts to Catholicism are very disillusioned when they get in-they read Chesteron and Belloc and end up in Our Lady of the Bus Stop with the guitar mass and the feminist pastoral administrator. They then have to really struggle-most end up saying that Catholicism is true, and therefore that's where they're supposed to be, no matter if what they imagined doesn't meet what they got. I would suggest it should be the same when you become Orthodox. It's probably never what you imagined-the question is, is it the truth? Also, as to myths, I can say from experience I don't find the "advertising" for either church much different-both stress the strong selling points, and ignore the problems. I don't hate the RC church, and most Orthodox I know don't either. We do get amused when people try to use numbers, as if it has anything to do with the truth, or suggest the problems with Orthodoxy are any worse than those with Catholicism. The only question, in the end, is which church is true (or more true, if you want to do the two lungs idea). Personally, and this is only for myself, I found it a lot harder to reconcile what I read in books about Catholicism with what I actually found in practice. Also, like many others, I read the history of the Church and realized one could be Catholic or Orthodox with doing violence to the record-it comes down to a matter of interpretation (everything does). When I look at the record, I see something that looks more like Orthodoxy-some else may see the RC church. I can respect either. Finally, Orthodoxy is something new to most Americans, and it is a religion ill suited to major trends in American society. It shouldn't surprise anyone if American converts make a mess of it trying to figure out what it really means to be Orthodox-I would think that would be the case for some time. There's no need to have contempt for that fact, or to slam people for bringing their mostly Protestant baggage with them. Anyone who has ever known a Catholic ex-Protestant can vouch for the fact that everyone brings their baggage no matter where they end up.

Teena H. Blackburn said...

Someone else...sorry

Anonymous said...

Perhaps people need to learn how to think for themselves and quit relying on some external authority to do it for them.
We no longer live in a society where religion is an inherited "thing", just like language and customs. We live in one where religion is a choice.
Unfortunately, choice is now "consumer choice" and so the difficulty is now picking which "brand" to use.
The above comments remind me of those who argue which is better, Mac or PC, Chevy or Ford, etc;



modestinus said...

Teena,

I will confess that when I was Orthodox I was too critical of cradles and too invested, for a time, with "convert culture." That all changed one Saturday afternoon when I went to one of the old OCA parishes in Chicago for Vespers and happened to be in the parish hall to use the bathroom. On the wall of the parish were rows of B&W photos from the 1930s thru 50s -- pictures of people who were vested in being Americans and Orthodox; pictures of war dead from WWII and Korea; and people dressed modestly, but not like 19th C. Russian peasants. It occurred to me then that this form of Orthodoxy, which culturally speaking looked no different than the Polish Catholicism I saw in similar B&W photos growing up, was effectively dead. (For what it's worth, this particular parish, which is located in Chicago's Ukrainian Village neighborhood, has about 10% of the parishioners today that it had in its heyday.) What comes next, or what can come next, is another matter. While this doesn't undercut Orthodoxy's claims to be the "one true church," I am no longer convinced that Orthodoxy isn't anything but a dying phenomenon in the United States. Maybe I am wrong on that. In fact, I hope I am wrong.

Catholic converts, for understandable reasons, tend to be more diverse than Orthodox converts -- or at least that was my impression from living in Chicago. Still, I find it hard to believe that someone in the U.S. today could convert to Catholicism without knowing what they are getting into. Even those who convert into traditionalist-style parishes or groups (e.g., SSPX) know full well the problems with the rest of the Catholic Church -- the trads never stop talking about them. If they get disillusioned, they get disillusioned, but I am unconvinced that they can plead ignorance before coming through the door.

I am not a fan of the numbers game when it comes to Catholicism vs. Orthodoxy. However, I do find the "evangelical spirit" of Catholicism more in tune with the Great Commission than the highly insular nature of most (not all) Orthodox communities in the world today. Nationalism, that perverse ideology that did much to destroy Europe for over two centuries, has found a way to not only penetrate, but remain embedded, in the Orthodox worldview. It keeps the Orthodox divided from each other and renders them incapable of viewing the world in anything but "Byzantine" terms. I think Catholics are right to be critical of this aspect of contemporary Orthodoxy -- even if it is an aspect which could (and, one hopes, eventually will) be cast aside.

Anonymous said...

...end up in Our Lady of the Bus Stop with the guitar mass and the feminist pastoral administrator.

Oh please. Can we please retire this '70s-vintage caricature?

Welcome to 2013, folks. The Folk Mass Era is passing away. Over at Gabriel's blog, Father Whiteford insists that our liturgy is trending in the outre' direction. The very opposite is true, as anyone can verify by simply getting off the Internet and getting out more.

The myth of the Catholic liturgical wasteland is just that -- a myth. It was **always** possible to find reverent liturgy...and it's much more possible today. Enough with the uncharitable misrepresentations, already. Seriously.

Here's a challenge: Count up all the Catholic parishes that have reverent, beautiful liturgy, all across America. I bet you'll find that the total number exceeds the total number of OCA, ROCOR, Antiochian, and even GOA parishes, combined and cubed.

As Father Dwight Longenecker points out, Size Matters. We are huge, and so we have the good, the bad, and the ugly. So, sure, we have the bad and the ugly (as y'all never cease to remind us), but we also have the good (which y'all conveniently overlook)...and, as I said, our total number of Good Liturgies is pretty large. Heck, you will find good Catholic liturgies in places that do not even have an Orthodox church -- not one single one. How much good does your oh-so-superior Orthodox liturgy do if your parishes do not even exist in many places? At least we're present in the places where people need us!

Bottom line: Things are tough all over. But all we ever hear from online Orthodox is how tough things supposedly are in our Church. Even when someone concedes that Orthodoxy may have problems, too (as Teena does here), it's explained away as growing pains or whatever. Yet no such charitable explanation is ever extended to Catholic problems. Right.

That gets old fast. It really does.

Anonymous said...

Clarification: When I say "size matters," I do not intend this as a triumphalistic polemic but rather as a simple recognition that, when you have 1.4 billion members, you are going to have the good, the bad, and the ugly. That's just the way reality works. Good grief, give us a break, already! ;)

Anonymous said...

Polite request: Can we please retire the following words: "boutique" "bourgeoisie" (and its derivatives) and "posturing"?

If I wanted that particular flavor of moral lecturing, I'll go read Owen's blog.

Teena H. Blackburn said...

I'll retire the description when I cease to see it as the standard form of liturgy in the diocese where I worked and still reside. If you can find good liturgy, good for you. I was RC two decades-I graduated with a degree in Catholic theology from a Catholic university. I worked in three different parishes over a span of 11 years. While in grad school, I went to both an Eastern rite parish and several Latin rite parishes in a heavily Catholic area. I've been to World Youth Day, and to Rome, and to Assisi. I've sat in Latin masses and charismatic masses. I've read a huge amount of Catholic literature, from the conservative end to the liberal end. I've sat in the pews with every kind of Catholic you can imagine (btw, most converts to sacramental Christianity in this country kind of look alike, no matter where they end up). Please don't try to tell me I don't know what American Catholicism looks like. If you were Orthodox for years and then went back to Catholicism, then you can criticize Orthodoxy from the inside too-but if you've never been anything but Catholic, while I've spend two decades in Catholicism and another decade in Orthodoxy, don't try to tell me that I misrepresent what Catholicism on the ground looks like in the US. I stop by the campus Newman Center regularly while going to my car, and I still hear the liturgy broadcast on the local Catholic station. I know what it's like-that doesn't mean there aren't pockets of great liturgy somewhere in America, but that doesn't matter much if your diocese isn't one of them.

The young fogey said...

(btw, most converts to sacramental Christianity in this country kind of look alike, no matter where they end up)

Intrigued. How's that?

Diane said...

I'll retire the description when I cease to see it as the standard form of liturgy in the diocese where I worked and still reside.

I call your bluff. You tell me what diocese you're in, and I'll find you bookoo liturgies there that do not fit your insulting caricature. OK?

And...you know...at least we're there. We don't make anyone drive two hours to get to a Catholic Mass. You ignored that part of my response, but here it is again with whipped cream and a cherry on top: At least Catholicism is accessible to most Americans in most places. Because, as Gabriel observed, we have done a better job with that Great Commission thing. (Which Christ seemed to regard as pretty important. He said nothing about liturgy, however. Odd, that, non?)

Several years ago, we drove through McDowall County, West Virginia, an incredibly depressed coal-mining area, where most of the mines are now shut down. We witnessed unbelievable poverty -- people living in Third World conditions. We'd pass a shack and think, "No one could possibly live there," and then we'd realize that someone did.

That kind of thing.

The Catholic Church was there, right smack in the middle of McDowall County, along with Catholic Charities (with a food bank and clothing store).

Is this an historically Catholic area? Of course not. It's Scots-Irish Bapti-costal. But the Glenmary Missionaries had brought Catholicism (and Catholic Charities) to this desperately impoverished area. And Catholicism is still alive and well there.

Where were the Orthodox? Missing in action. Absent. Not there. Not even on the radar screen. Not even in the closest large town!

Tout your liturgical superiority when it is actually accessible to most Americans. In the meantime, say what you will about Catholic parishes, at least we're present where the people are. Even in McDowall County, WV.

Diane said...

don't try to tell me that I misrepresent what Catholicism on the ground looks like in the US.

I am telling you precisely that.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

OK we need to lower the temperature of this discussion. Thank you.

modestinus said...

To the best of my knowledge "boutique religion" -- as applied to Orthodoxy -- was first used by Arturo Vasquez in a post he wrote many years ago to discuss his departure back to Catholicism. The other terms are just part of the normal critical lexicon.

Teena Blackburn said...

No problem here, John. Diane is the last person I'm interested in conversing with, but since she's "called my bluff," as it were, I'll put my last two cents in with your permission and go about my day. If Diane checks with the Catholic Diocese of Lexington, Ky, she'll find one Latin Mass in Lexington itself. It is blessed by the bishop-the former bishop gave it nothing but grief. I am a native of Eastern Kentucky. I worked for the Catholic church in Appalachia for 11 years. The area has memories of Catholic parishes that were full of immigrants, and which no longer exist because the immigrants moved away and the church had not taken root among the locals. I know who converts in my home area, who stays, who leaves-I ran the RCIA and catechized people for over a decade. I can say with some authority that almost NEVER did one of the poor we ministered to convert. On the rare occasions they did, it was no less exotic, alien and weird for them than if they had become Orthodox. They received our services, they did not, for the most part, join us. The area was also a dumping ground of sorts for Catholic dissident religious who came to the mountains to save us-they fought with the theologically conservative priest who hired me-who was later tried for having sex with a minor (which has nothing to do with whether Catholicism is true, I'm just saying my experience was what it was). There are more Catholics than Orthodox in the US-so of course they are in more places, and statistically speaking, you'll see more of the good, the bad and the ugly. Who is disputing that? Should Orthodox be more missionary minded? Yes. Are we very missionary in some parts of the world? Yes. Are there decent Catholic liturgies in the US? I'm sure. Is the liturgical life of most Catholics in the US rather bad. I would say yes. I went to a World Youth Day-it was liturgically heinous. I've been to my oldest son's confirmation-the current bishop is supposed to be a good liturgist, but he was visiting my old home parish, and the liturgy was terrible. I've been to his cathedral during Lent-he wasn't serving, but three verses of "Ashes" was enough to have me wanting to run for the door. I've been to Mass in one of the oldest churches in America (Baltimore). It was just awful. The Orthodox in America are numerically small, and we need to get off our behinds and spread the faith-but then we get criticized when zealous ex-Protestants among us make use of the techniques they were raised with. No one, least of all me, would deny what is good in the RC church, but lousy liturgy is a theological issue, not just an aesthetic concern, and I have watched some of the most theologically conservative Catholics I know head East, into Orthodoxy or Eastern Rite Catholicism because they could not stomach what was going on in their local Latin rite parishes-and this was in Steubenville, where there are many, many Latin churches to choose from. At day's end, the issue is about truth-all the weaknesses in Catholicism or Orthodoxy are not enough to tell you one is obviously true than the other (the historical record is ambiguous), but neither is there any room for any Orthodox or Catholic to deny the real problems in both communions. They are there. Beauty is necessary, but not sufficient. You can have a beautiful service that is heretical-on the other hand, you can have the most beautiful doctrine in the world, but if it is expressed in ugly banality, humans (being incarnate) are going to internalize what they see more than what they read. As to being a presence out in the sticks, go to Wayne, W.Va. if you want to find some Orthodox.

The young fogey said...

Modestinus is hitting them out of the park, and, sorry, Diane, but Teena's making a lot of points too.

The American Catholic Church, by and large, has sucked since Vatican II. But I have my enclave, which the '70s didn't manage to kill, and it doesn't teach me to hate the East. Plus, as Diane will tell you, things got better under Pope Benedict; reforming the Novus Ordo in English was a coup. So I'm where I am.

(btw, most converts to sacramental Christianity in this country kind of look alike, no matter where they end up)

Intrigued. How are they alike?

Teena Blackburn said...

They are alike, in my experience, that on average they are likely to be better educated, have spent more time reading their way into whatever communion they are joining. They may expect the communion they join to look like what they've read in the books, and be disillusioned when it doesn't. I think converts are more open to the traditional aspects of both Catholicism and Orthodoxy-we don't shy away from them in order to be more "American," because we are often fleeing what we see as the failures of overly Americanized Christianity.

Diane said...

Teena, I am familiar with Kentucky -- my husband's from Louisville, and my brother-in-law went to UK -- so I will take you up on your challenge.

You mention one Latin Mass in your diocese. Well, aren't you moving the goal-posts here? I said good liturgy, not necessarily Latin liturgy. Are you seriously arguing that there are no reverently celebrated Catholic Masses in the entire Lexington diocese, except for that one Latin Mass?

And things are changing -- it is neither truthful nor charitable to insist otherwise. Take Louisville, just for starters. I remember when my in-laws' parish, Holy Trinity, was dreadfully liberal. It's been trending more traditional and conservative ever since...just like many if not most parishes in the South.

And it still remains true that there are a heck of a lot more Catholic parishes than Orthodox ones, in a heck of a lot more places, including rural spots. I do not see how that can possibly be gainsaid. Lord have mercy.

I find dialogue with you as unpleasant as you find dialogue with me, so, to respect Ad Orientem's request, perhaps we'd better leave off here.

I will say one thing, though: Modestinus is right that Catholics are usually too busy making nicey-nice -- and too busy defending their Church against bogus charges -- to lob the kind of spitballs at the Orthodox that routinely get lobbed at us. But, if we were inclined to launch criticisms of Orthodoxy, we'd find plenty of fodder, believe me. Unlike some online Orthodox, though, we don't find "Bashing Other People's Churches" to be a particularly edifying parlor-game.

According to the old Disney flick Polyanna, Abe Lincoln once said, "If you look for the bad in people, you are surely going to find it." That holds true if you look for the bad in churches, too. Some people seem to spend much of their waking time looking for Bad Things in the Catholic Church. So far, we have refrained from returning that favor...but, if we were to look for Bad Things in your communion, methinks we'd find them! But cui bono?

Nonetheless, that does not mean we are willing to let your unfair criticisms go unanswered.

And pace my good friend John B., I still maintain that you are misrepresenting the Catholic liturgical landscape. Yes, even in Kentucky, where I have been many, many times.

Thanks...and now I'm done. Please feel free to continue insisting that we are nothing but "the Church of Our Lady of the Bus Stop" from one end of the globe to the other. Lord. Have. Mercy.



M. Jordan Lichens said...

I am an adult convert to Catholicism and almost left because of the bad liturgy and heretical sermons. I'm not talking, "Oh, they use a guitar in mass and Father loves to talk about politics." I'm talking about liturgical dancers with the homily being about how sin was just a psychosis of the mind (bad psychology and bad theology). Of course, I had to grow up and realize that it is my mother, drunk or sober, and I need to be where I am.

I think I know which parish Modestinus is talking about as I almost became Orthodox while studying Divinity in Chicago. I would frequently go to the Uki Village and found that particular OCA parish to be a joy. I too remember seeing photos of Russo-Americans in WWII regalia before shipping off and thinking this was the best of American Christianity. Of course, then I moved from Chicago and often find that it is hard to find a good, organic Orthodox parish that doesn't give the feeling of being a club for angry ex-Protestants. I have found some amazing parishes, and I have been especially impressed at the joy of Serbian and Rocor churches where I was almost always greeted warmly and never regarded as an enemy, despite my Catholicism. It's rare to find and I applaud all Orthodox converts who have made a parish into a home. I can't imagine the amount of frustration it took to get from point a to b.

Judge373 said...

Diane's new nickname shall be "The Broken Record."

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Thanks to everyone for your comments. But I think the question I asked has been answered. And since some of the more recent posts don't seem to be adding to the discussion additional comments will be taken by email only.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

From Ex-Trad Catholic

As a now former traditionalist Catholic... (WOW, that was weird to write.)

I think a lot of Catholics of the traditionalist persuasion are realizing its the end of the line. With the impending canonization of John Paul II the cognitive dissonance of the traditionalist position is going to reach epic new levels. I had difficulty justifying my resistance to Vatican II over the years. I recognized the immense and unprecedented implications of resisting an general council for over 50 years... but there are ways to walk that tight rope. But with the infallible canonization of JP2 we either need to get in line with Vatican II, become sedevacantists, or look East. Looking East is the most reasonable conclusion for me.

Its a decision I have been/am making very slowly. I don't want to embrace Orthodoxy just because I'm running from Rome. I want to embrace it because it is the truth. I've come to the conclusion that converting to Orthodoxy is the logical conclusion of becoming a traditionalist. The Orthodox are the original traditionalists. I find many Orthodox statements saying they would gladly grant the primacy to Rome when Rome returns to Orthodoxy to be similar to the SSPX saying they adhere to "Eternal Rome."

People are on edge, because their theological world view, which has been crumbling for decades, is about to collapse completely. Hence the defensive and snarky comments, which are just projecting their own insecurities.

That's my two cents.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

From Owen White

John,

I just noticed a thread on your blog in which I am mentioned and in which comments are shut down. You noted that one could send you an email.

I would like to respond to this comment:

"My little corner of the internet features at least two Orthodox, Serge and Owen who left Orthodoxy to become Catholic just in the past couple of years. Modestinus seems pretty recent as well. All three seem to spend a great deal of time explaining why they're Catholic instead of Orthodox, or dredging corners of internet Orthodox commentary."

When I closed my original Ochlophobist blog, I wrote a post in which I stated that I was returning to the Catholic Church, and gave some reasons for that. Since that time, so far as I can recall, I have not ever publicly stated any reason for returning to the RCC, and, in fact, I am still a member of the Orthodox Church (I have no desire to get into the complexities of my ecclesial allegiances here). I now, rarely, write things critical of both the RCC and the EOC. A perusal of my current blog testifies to as much. I detest AFR, I detest EWTN. I detest the USCCB's "fortnight of freedom" nonsense, I detest the fact that large swaths of convert American Orthodoxy are inundated with committed libertarians and movement conservatives. I detest Dobsonista/Touchstonista posturing in both the RCC and EOC. I also detest, even more perhaps than the right wing orientations, pop petit-bourgeois liberalism as it is found in American Catholicism and American Orthodoxy. The Divine Liturgies near where I currently live are not particularly of high caliber in terms of traditional Orthodox piety, and the local Roman Catholic Masses are abysmal and completely given to the spirit of liberal Protestantism - but I have no interest in liturgy polemics as I view such as shooting fish in a barrel - without doubt the actually existing Roman Catholic liturgical offerings realistically available to most people are insufferable; I don't consider that a matter of serious debate or as any sort of "proof" of Catholicism's falsehood. I have bigger fish to fry. I cannot stomach affected "lifestylized" Christianity, and I find such rampant amongst converts to both the RCC and the EOC. My gripes are with religion as it is typically commodified and fetishized in an American setting, and this puts me at odds with most American Catholicism, and with most American Orthodoxy. I believe that most triumphalist polemical arguments for one communion and against the other amount to sheer intellectual rubbish peddled by people who, like 99.999999999999999999% of converts, do not have the intellectual faculties necessary to competently engage in such matters (a competence which I have stated that I lack myself). I have little interest in such, and have certainly not been involved in such since the end of my original Ochlophobist blog (during which I regularly attacked RCism). I appreciate Samn!'s opinion regarding my current posture, and I assert that it is accurate - my criticisms of both Orthodoxy and Catholicism have nothing to do with providing any reason for my own religious participation, and are not meant to be a part of any polemical schema involving the supposed triumph of one communion over the other, or any attempt to convince others that they should convert from one to the other, or to one instead of the other. I believe that the vast, vast, vast majority of conversions are not done for intellectual reasons anyway, even among those who "read their way" to conversion and believe themselves to have converted because of ideas/dogma/theology/etc.