Monday, September 30, 2013

Rod Dreher is not going back to Rome

Pope Francis has apparently not impressed him. Why an Orthodox Christian would consider the particular policies of a given Pope in terms of remaining in The Church escapes me. But in any event he is remaining Orthodox. His piece is something of an indictment of the problems of the post Vatican II Roman Church that even Fr. Z found compelling. But not surprisingly he has drawn sharp criticism from more than a few corners of the Catholic blogosphere and their attendant comboxes. For the record I am not offended by that kind of criticism. If you fire a full broadside at someone's church you can't cry foul if they shoot back, though some of the commentary was snarky and personal.

But while if you have serious problems with your church, that may or may not be a good reason for leaving (circumstances depending), I am somewhat confused by Rod’s decision to leave the Roman Church. Did he leave because it has become a nest of modernist liberals? Or was it because he became convinced the Roman Catholic Church is heretical in its teachings? The latter is a good reason for leaving, the former is more doubtful.

And then there is the question of why Orthodoxy? Whatever your reason for leaving your previous confession, you need to be “all in” when you join a Church (as opposed to ‘church’), that like Rome, claims to be The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church spoken of in the Creed. I am not getting this from his piece. One needs to be careful when judging or impugning the motives of others. But if he joined the Orthodox Church because he wanted the Catholic Church without all of the liberal crap, then he did so for the wrong reasons.

Obviously, I am Orthodox and a former Catholic. And while the over the top liberal craziness did not make my decision to leave any harder, in the end I left the Roman Church because I became convinced over time that it was wrong on a number of important doctrinal points. Orthodoxy’s initial attraction was its magnificent liturgical rites and sound moral teachings. But I did not enter until I became convinced of the truths of Holy Orthodoxy.

I would have felt a little better if I had gotten that message from Rod. In the end though all we can do is to try and do right as God gives the light to discern right from wrong. Beyond that, we are all under that Great Mercy that none of us deserves, and without which we are all doomed.

HT: Ordo Antiquus

17 comments:

George CS said...

"In the end though all we can do is to try and do right as God gives the light to discern right from wrong. Beyond that, we are all under that Great Mercy that none of us deserves, and without which we are all doomed."

Beautiful words! And so true.

Timothy Bertovich said...

Rod left the Roman Catholic Church over the sexual abuse crises. I doubt he put much thought into doctrine or whatever the liberals were doing, and he chose Orthodoxy because it was the next one down on the list. He's always struck me as a strange guy.

Chris Jones said...

I have been reading Rod Dreher for a number of years, and I remember well how he explained his conversion to Orthodoxy at the time.

Like many, many Protestant converts to Catholicism, Rod never considered the claims of Orthodoxy before becoming a Catholic. In particular, he took the Papal claims at face value, because they have a better historical pedigree than the myriad forms of Protestantism, and because a central magisterium seemed to promise a reliable orthodoxy that Protestantism could not deliver.

The abuse crisis in the Catholic Church caused a crisis of faith for Rod, and in that environment he encountered the Orthodox Church for the first time. He then considered the Papal claims in depth for the first time -- and compared the claims of Rome not to the bewildering variety of Protestantism, but to the competing claims of Orthodoxy.

According to Rod, this serious consideration led him to reject the claims of Rome and to confess the Orthodox faith. It is a conversion that might not ever have happened without the abuse crisis in Catholicism; but when Rod says that he no longer believes in the teachings of the Catholic Church, but does believe in the teachings of the Orthodox Church, I see no reason to doubt him. In fact I think that it is churlish to suggest (as some have done) that his conversion was or is less than sincere.

michael-in-oceania said...

In general, I have a lot of time for Rod Dreher. I have had email correspondence with him and I consider him a good man.

However, I, like many commenters, have wondered just how committed he is to Orthodoxy, and why. As I have said in other comment threads, the only valid reason to join a church is if you believe its claims. In Rod's case, I think he was driven out of Catholicism, and into Orthodoxy, by emotional attraction and repulsion, and only later paid attention to doctrinal details.

John Beeler (Young Fogey) claims that, ultimately, Rod will return to the Roman Catholic church. When I read articles like this one, I can see why he thinks so.

On the other hand, there have been many who have come to the Church for unsound reasons (i.e., marriage), who leter completely accepted the claims of the faith. As St. Cyril of Jerusalem said in his Catechetical Lectures:

"Perhaps thou comest on another ground. A man may be wishing to pay court to a woman, on that account come hither: and the same applies to women likewise: again, a slave often wishes thus to please his master, or one friend another. I avail myself of this angler's bait, and receive thee, as one who has come indeed with an unsound purpose, but art to be saved by a good hope."

So, ultimately, one never knows!

Jon Marc said...

He'll cycle out sooner or later, just give him time...

Teena Blackburn said...

I think it's a bit unseemly to sit around speculating whether someone is going to stay or not. We can only go on what he says, and then pray for him if those words cause us some concern. On another note, I noticed that on Fr. Z's blog, one man talked about returning to Catholicism after the suicide of his son (his son was abused at an Orthodox seminary). His reasoning sounded no less "emotional" than Rod's, but no one there challenged his motives. Finally, it amuses me, in a sad way, to read the comments about Orthodoxy on Fr. Z's thread. As someone who has been both Catholic and Orthodox, it is clear to me that many of those people have NO idea of Orthodoxy in the real world, and have to attack it as a defense mechanism. I remember that tactic-I did it myself for years. You admit the RC is in rotten shape, so rotten it causes you to question the doctrines, but you have to squirm around to convince yourself that Orthodoxy just HAS to be false. I have no problems with people who are convinced the Catholic church is THE church, but I do have problems with people who have never seriously examined Orthodoxy, but instead only know Protestantism or the Latin church. Of those two, there is no contest.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

There are a lot of people who wash in to our Church, get a taste of the insular congregations, the obtuse priests, the scheming hierarchs, etc., and wash right back out. This may happen with Rod, it may happen with anybody.

But like Teena, I'm a little puzzled at the smug assurance that Rod's word on this cannot be taken at face value. He's made it clear in his blog he no longer believes in the ecclesiology of the Catholic Church, which means he can no longer be a good Catholic. He's gotten beat up over +Jonah and is scratching along in a tiny Orthodox mission in rural, heavily-Catholic Louisiana and is still in the OCA, with its three living Metropolitans and ambiguous rank in world Orthodoxy. If he hasn't left by now, I'm not sure why he would.

My two cents on the whole pissing match, ultimately you need to be chrismated Orthodox because you believe the Orthodox Church has maintained the true Faith, and is therefore Christ's Church.

As for the Catholic Church, I know she is headed by the Patriarch of Rome, who is currently in schism with the other Patriarchs. And beyond that, God hasn't let me know.

LV said...

The parish in St. Francisville LA is ROCOR, not OCA. They have a wonderful, non-obtuse young priest. There was an OCA mission effort in St. Francisville for a while in which my OCA parish was involved, but now that ROCOR is there, we have focused more on our mission to the east, in Mississippi.

Chris Jones said...

My amen to what Teena and the Anti-Gnostic have written, but also a correction or two:

Rod's not still in the OCA. The new mission in his home town is under the omophorion of ROCOR, not the OCA. That's not because Rod left the OCA in a huff over its scandals (as some of his detractors would have us believe); it's simply that ROCOR was willing and able to send a priest to serve the mission, and the OCA was not.

Here is what Rod wrote about the jurisdictional thing at the time (the part in bold is a question from one of his readers, followed by his reply):


What exactly does it mean for your relationship with the OCA that you are going to be worshiping at a ROCOR mission? I realize that the liturgies are the same (yes? maybe?), but will your new priest be responsible to a different set of bishops? Are these overlapping jurisdictions?

I don’t really know what it means for my relationship to the OCA. Our new priest is responsible to a ROCOR bishop. I’m more interested in my relationship to Jesus Christ than I am in jurisdictional details. Maybe I should care more about that stuff than I do. Our group — all of us OCA — didn’t start the mission as a protest against the OCA. We were, and are, happy with the OCA parish we all attend in Baton Rouge. We have a very fine priest there, and a nice community. We just all got tired of church being 45 minutes away, and it being so hard to get down to vespers and holy days. We raised the money, and ROCOR agreed to send us a priest, and we met the priest and his wife and they liked us and we liked them, so… .


Also, I don't think the part of Louisiana where Rod lives is "heavily Catholic." IIRC, the Catholic Church is pretty strong in New Orleans and the Cajun country, but English Louisiana is more like the rest of the South in its denominational mix.

Of course that doesn't take anything away from your point that it's not a particularly congenial place for an Eastern Orthodox mission.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Thanks for the corrections. Rod, ROCOR, OCA and Louisiana all have my very best wishes.

Tawser said...

Authority in the church, like authority anywhere, is a means to an end, in this instance, the end being the preservation of the Faith. Therefore, authority has to be credible, otherwise it ceases to be legitimate authority and instead becomes a cult of personality. I often struggle with the fact that if I had lived and died before 1961 (the year I was born), I might have lived and died a perfectly contented Roman Catholic. But instead I was born in 1961 and have watched the authorities in the Roman Catholic church trash the liturgy and preside over the disintegration of Catholic culture and the collapse of ecclesiastical discipline, all the while insisting that this chaos is renewal and reform. For me, the bond of trust that must be the basis for submission to authority is irreparably broken. I became Orthodox because, despite their many failings, of which I am quite aware, I trust the Orthodox hierarchs to do their job, which is to ensure that I have access to the faith. Was that a good reason to convert? I won't know until I the Day of Judgment, but, like Rod, I know that there is no going back.

Azogsbane said...

People should take Rod at his word. After all his NYT article was written not as an Orthodox apologetic, but as a personal commentary on the currents of theological and liturgical liberalism within the Catholic Church which supposedly, according the American press, are being promoted by the new pope.

When Rod posted a link to the article on his blog, he included this short passage which he says he would have put into the article if space had allowed:

"To be sure, the primary reason I’m not for turning back to Rome is because I do not believe Catholic doctrine any longer. Even if I thought Francis was the second coming of John the Baptist, I couldn’t rejoin a church in whose ecclesiological claims I have ceased to believe. The point here is simply that the aspect of Francis’s papal ministry that the world sees as a feature is, for people like me, a bug."

For myself I know that when I converted to Orthodoxy, I had some motives besides purely doctrinal ones. I'll bet that most people do. In fact, my priest at the time told me I was fortunate to have such reasons, since they would give me added compulsion to stay when the going gets rough. I think he was on to something. And lets, face it, 99% or Orthodox, or members of any other church for that matter, did not become so because of a pure pursuit of the truth. Most were just born and raised in it. And I defy anyone to say that there something wrong with that.

stranger-in-a-strange-world said...

Chris, later in the same thread Rod then states "for reasons having to do with the instability at the top of the OCA today, there was a unanimous sentiment that we would not make another bid to revive the OCA mission here, but would instead approach other jurisdictions about the possibility of starting a mission." This is in fact his third jurisdiction in a few years.

He's a troubled individual. I say that not to cast aspersions - perhaps I am more so - but simply to warn readers not familiar with the individual, his history of very disturbing conspiracy and intrigue, and lack of care for the truth to be very, very careful.

stranger-in-a-strange-world said...

Chris, later in the same thread Rod then states "for reasons having to do with the instability at the top of the OCA today, there was a unanimous sentiment that we would not make another bid to revive the OCA mission here, but would instead approach other jurisdictions about the possibility of starting a mission." This is in fact his third jurisdiction in a few years.

He's a troubled individual. I say that not to cast aspersions - perhaps I am more so - but simply to warn readers not familiar with the individual, his history of very disturbing conspiracy and intrigue, and lack of care for the truth to be very, very careful.

Matushka Anna said...

Given that members of our parish in MS drive up to 2 hours (and most of them drive at least 1 1/2 hours - only a handful are within 20 minutes), the OCA did not consider it necessary to start a mission 30 miles away from a preexisting one. The reason the mission in St. Francisville is sponsored by ROCOR is because ROCOR was applied to and was found willing to start a mission so close to one of another jurisdiction. This isn't to cast aspersions on the OCA or ROCOR or the people of St. Francisville. There's just a lot of misinformation out there. Even the newspaper reports of the mission in St. Francisville got the whole business wrong (they reported that the reason the OCA didn't follow through with a mission in St. Francisville was because the priest in MS refused to do it).

I agree with Teena that it seems rather unfair to essentially "make bets" about whether someone will leave the Church and when. Really, it's none of anyone's business and at the very least we should be praying for each other's salvation. (Granted, Rod throws himself out there in the public forum and kind of "asks for it", but that's still no excuse.) Rod is in ROCOR right now because ROCOR was willing to start a mission in his backyard, not because he hates the OCA.

Macrina Walker said...

I was told when I became Orthodox in western Europe (which like the USA has overlapping jurisdictions) that lay people did not belong to a particular jurisdiction but simply to the Church, whatever parish they happened to be part of. Only the clergy (and presumably monastics) who had a particular relationship to a particular bishop had to be concerned with jurisdictions. At least that's what I was told by someone who's judgement I generally trust.

Saponaria said...

"The abuse crisis in the Catholic Church caused a crisis of faith for Rod, and in that environment he encountered the Orthodox Church for the first time. He then considered the Papal claims in depth for the first time -- and compared the claims of Rome not to the bewildering variety of Protestantism, but to the competing claims of Orthodoxy."

Well, I know for a fact this is not true. Rod was very well acquainted with the Orthodox Church for MANY years before this particular scandal. He was/is very close friends with some Orthodox clergy converts. He didn't suddenly happen upon Orthodoxy's claims at this time. But it did strike me that he was not actually willing to consider the claims he was well aware of until he found the position in the Catholic Church so distasteful he couldn't stand it anymore.