Square Zero

Catholic v. Orthodox

Posted by Eric (September 15, 2006 at 3:50 pm)

Original icon by Nicholas Papas of Greensburg PAKaren, a Byzantine Catholic who blogs at ByzFaith, recently commented on my thread on “The Orthodox & Contraception” with some of her concerns about the Catholic Church. With her permission, I will respond to those concerns here, since she raises some important issues on the tension between East and West.

I wouldn’t say that Orthodoxy has changed her position over time, but rather has always been more reluctant to speak out on certain issues, whereas the Catholic Church has positions on EVERYTHING. Most Catholics simply ignore them.

There’s something to what you say, and I wonder if on the whole proportionally more Orthodox actually use contraception than Catholics. I wouldnt’ be surprised if the percentages were pretty close.

The Value of Clarity

But you have to ask why Catholics ignore certain Catholic teaching. For the most part it isn’t because they’ve heard it explained, thought about it, and rejected it. Rather it’s because they’ve either never heard about it, or hearing about it they lack the spiritual or intellectual maturity to really consider it.

But it should also be said that the Catholic Church does not, in fact, have positions on everything, especially not everything to do with sex. Many people have the notion that the Church offers—or ought to offer—detailed positions on such things as which particular sex acts are “allowed” or precisely under what circumstances a couple may postpone pregnancy.

But it actual fact the Church, recognizing that couples are especially endowed with the sacramental grace to discover the right way on such issues, does not provide the kind of specific instructions that some wish she would and others unjustly mock her for doing.

That said, the West has always had an analytical bent, a talent for listing, compiling, describing. These skills are not entirely foreign to the East, but since the Great Schism (or even before), the East has tended to refuse to take an analytical approach to things in order to set her self in contrast to the West.

It is true that the analytical approach can go too far, yielding to legalism or to the Protestant rejection of authority (which is really just another form of legalism), and even many good Catholics suffer from a preoccupation with the letter rather than the spirit of the law.

Still, I think in the end it’s necessary to say whether certain things are right or wrong. The Fathers certainly did not shrink from speaking about contraception. I don’t think it ultimately serves married couples to leave this completely up to them, especially if it is true—as I believe it is, and as it seems to me you do too—that contraception is by its very nature a contradiction of the meaning of marital love.

Reconciling East and West

Personally, I’m just finding that I can’t reconcile Roman Catholic doctrine with Orthodox worship and theology. I also have a problem with certain things that the Catholic Church teaches (the Filioque, its legalistic concept of salvation, the pope being basically a monarch, and the Immaculate Conception).

Let’s go through each of the issues you raise. I don’t claim to be an expert on these things at all. In fact, my pal Karl Schudt can probably do a better job on any of these issues in twenty-five words of less. But I’ll offer what insights I can.

First I want to offer two foundational ideas that inform my approach to these kinds of questions. The first is my conviction that both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches teach the Truth, though they speak about the truth in different ways.

I begin from the premise that the apparent contradictions between Orthodox and Catholic teaching can always be reconciled. I think that’s an important premise to have, because it demands a kind of radical openness to thinking about these apparent points of contradiction and a tireless searching for common ground.

Second, it seems to me that both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church have been in some sense perverted by the Great Schism. I believe the Catholic Church is right in her claim to manifest the principle of unity among Christians in the papacy, but deprived of the gifts of the East, she can speak of the faith in ways that are sometimes unfortunate.

The East is less troubled by this particular problem, but perhaps this is only because she refuses to speak much about doctrinal issues, prefering to devote herself to preserving the Liturgy—and to distinguishing herself from the Catholic Church at all costs.

Some Sticking Points

FightThat said, let’s look at the filioque. Personally, I’d like to see the entire Western Church remove the filioque from their Creed. The Council of Florence reconciled the Greek and Latin teaching on the procession of the Holy Spirit and there really shouldn’t be any more rancor about this.

But the phrase itself tends to lead to a distorted notion of the Holy Spirit as in some sense subordinate to the Father and the Son—or worse, as a sort of “offspring” of the First and Second Persons of the Holy Trinity as metaphorical “parents.” The phrase requires a footnote, and that’s not advantageous in a Creed.

But why should this trouble us as Byzantine Catholics? We do not utter the filioque in our Churches, and yet we are Catholic. Clearly the Catholic Church does not insist that the Faithful speak those words. I can see holding a strong opinion on the matter—as I do myself—but I don’t see why it should become an point of ultimate dispute.

As for the Catholic Church’s alleged legalistic concept of salvation, I don’t think this is a fair charge. It’s certainly true that the West tends to fall into legalism—I see it all the time and I’m sure you do too. But to level this charge at the Church as a whole is to overlook the life and works of so many of the saints as well as the liturgical life of the Church.

One doesn’t tend to do that with regards to the Orthodox because since they lack a magisterium, the only place you can go to for an understanding of Orthodox teaching is to the saints and the liturgy.

But the Orthodox are quite capable of falling into a kind of legalism too—the notion that by kissing the icons and receiving Communion on Easter you have satisfied the demands of Faith. And saints like Francis, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Teresa of Calcutta and John Paul the Great show that the idea of an intimate connection to Christ and total dependence on God’s mercy is able to thrive in the West.

As for the Immaculate Conception, I’m really not sure where the point of dispute it. The things we say about the Mother of God as “more honorable than the Cherubim,” and “more glorious beyond comparison than the Seraphim,” and panagia (“most pure one”) make the phrase “immaculate conception” look to me, if anything, like an understatement.

I suppose this goes to the differing ways that East and West speak of original sin. Yet it seems to me, through reading and talking about this issue and above all by giving ear to the liturgy, that the difference isn’t so great. I know the Orthodox like to claim they reject the idea of a “stain” on the nature of man, but I don’t see how that squares with, for example, the prayers of the Baptismal Liturgy:

O Lord, now deliver this your creature from bondage to the enemy, and receive him/her into your heavenly kingdom.

If there is not something “fallen” about the nature of man, how can the priest utter these words over the tiny pink body of an infant?

The Development of Doctrine

The Catholic Church seems to be the one that has changed its position on stuff over the years, using “doctrinal development” as justification for doing so. No offense, but I think it’s gone off the tracks.

What teaching would you say has changed? The things you list are all pretty ancient. The Immaculate Conception may have been promulgated in the 18th century, but the doctrine goes back deep in Church history. The Church’s understanding of justification goes even deeper.

Nor do I see how you can reasonably reject the idea that doctrine develops. Did doctrine not develop over the early centuries of the Church, especially through the first seven ecumenical councils? Did the Church not grasp more deeply the meaning of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Mother of God and the authority of the Church herself?

It is impossible to say that there was no development of doctrine through those councils. In fact, it was precisely his deep study of the Fathers and Councils that led Newman to discuss the concept of a “development of doctrine” in opposition to the Protestants’ claims to have restored original Christianity.
What I don’t understand is why the development of doctrine ought to have stopped once and for all in 787 A.D. with the Second Council of Niceae.

Has Orthodoxy Waffled on Birth Control?

The Orthodox Church, though it doesn’t unequivocally condemn [artificial birth control], it does condemn using sex in a “selfish” way—and [artificial birth control] constitutes using sex in a selfish way. As for divorce, what the Orthodox call “divorce” is really “annulment.”

There’s an article by William Klimon on contraception which charts the change in Orthodox teaching on contraception from 1963 through 1993 as reflected in editions of Kallistos Ware’s The Orthodox Church. The first edition in 1963 says unequivocally that the Orthodox Church condemns the use of contraception; the 1993 edition admits that this was the past view but that view differ now.

That’s something to think about, especially as you cited this equivocation on contraception as the main reason you are reluctant to convert to Orthodoxy.

I think it is a very sad thing indeed that the Orthodox have wavered on this issue. I am attracted to Eastern Christianity above all because of how earthy and incarnational it is—the liturgy, the chant, the kissing of icons, the arduous fasts.

I would think the East would not only reject contraception out of hand but would do a better job of explaining precisely how contraception desecrates man as the bodily image of God, as an incarnate spirit, and marriage as the mystical union of the masculine and feminine icons of the mystery of God.

In this matter is seems to me the East is not herself. She has lost her identity. And this goes back to my earlier comment that both East and West have become distored by the Great Schism. Sometimes I think the Orthodox are so desperate not to appear at all like the Romans that they will waver on an issue like contraception.

If the Romans are going to make themselves infamous for staunchly opposing contraception, why, the Orthodox will take a more “measured” and “pastoral” view of the matter.

Byzantine Catholicsm: A Sign of Contradiction

What I think this shows is that the Orthodox need Rome. Of course, the Romans need the Orthodox too. The deep roots of the Orthodox liturgy and her wisdom about the body and God’s mercy and other matters are desperately needed in the Western Church.

The Great Schism must be healed. And that is precisely why I think it’s important that we Byzantine Catholics bravely hold our ground in this uncomfortable twilight place between Rome and Constantinople. We are a sign of contradiction to both the Romans and the Greeks, a symbol both of unity and of the scandal of schism—a Church that should not exist, and yet in some ways is the only one that has any right to exist.

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29 Responses to “Catholic v. Orthodox”

  1. TheDegu says:

    Good statement on doctrinal development, pretty much what I’ve been thinking. The Orthodox don’t seem to realize that they pull the rug out from under themselves when they deny it exists, but then hold in such great reverence the sermons of Chrysostom or the decrees of the early Councils.

    That point given, why does it stop there? The Church still lives, still produces writings and saints and so forth.

    All of these things take the kernel of the Gospel and develop them, drawing out their implications for a deeper understanding of them. The Christological teachings of the early Councils teach more fully and explicitly what is often little more than implied in Scripture.

    Just because they say MORE doesn’t mean they contradict it. A sapling is the same entity as a full-grown tree, to steal a Cardinal Newman observation.

    It was Solovyev (similar to your point) that pointed out that the Orthodox often define themselves by what they aren’t (Latin) than by what they are….

    The Catholic Church does not and will not ‘go off the tracks,’ inasmuch as we are speaking of doctrinal error. Rome was there and will be long after any schism or controversy.

    Comment posted September 16th, 2006 at 12:41 am
  2. Kathleen Anderson says:

    In worshipping the Creator of the Universe, why keep splitting hairs? We are a scandal to the world: as Christians, our divisions speak volumes to non-Christians. The Great Grandfather of Christianity, the Catholic Church, and the Great Grandmother of Christianity, the Orthodox Church, have divorced almost 1000 years ago, and look at all the dysfunctional children we have spawned. Yes, there are many, many wonderful Christian children. But the primary parents of Christianity have become defensive and authoritarian parents: “My way or the highway!” We are all on this journey. As humans we can only receive a glimpse of the Glory which our GOD is. So why don’t we present our perspectives and understandings, allow a variety of worship styles, and invite Christianity by steps instead of an “all-or-nothing or you’re out” kind of religion? The ideal is awesome. The rest of us live in the daily struggle of today’s world where nothing is perfect. We are nothing if we’re stuck in an ivory tower, and forever immature if we always have to wait for “father’s approval”. As much as I love the best of my Catholic Christianity, there is clear room for growth. For one, many Western Rite Catholics Christians know nothing of the awesome Eastern Rite Catholic Christians. How about this one: Orthodox Christians are allowed Communion in Eastern Rite churches when an Orthodox communitiy is unavailable, but Eastern Catholics are not welcome to receive communion in an Orthodox church. And Eastern Rite Catholic Christian clergy are allowed to be married … except in America. I’ve simplified some issues here, but I am trying to be brief. I pray for unification of Christianity! GOD bless!

    Comment posted September 17th, 2006 at 9:39 am
  3. Karen says:

    Hi Eric, thanks so much for addressing my concerns. It’s good that I can discuss this with another Byzantine Catholic who isn’t a fellow parishioner. 🙂

    You make some valid points… neither the West nor the East is perfect, and I have always believed that they need each other, to compiment one another and to balance each other out.

    Okay, now I’m going address your addresses… 😉

    The Filioque: I never thought before that it was a very serious issue– more like splitting hairs– but when you think about it, it has to do with the whole relationship of the Persons of the Trinity, and that is definitely a big deal. Basically, the problem with the Filioque can be boiled down to: if the Father and the Son both spirate, then it stands to reason that the Spirit must also spirate, but He doesn’t. I know we BC’s don’t say it, but because we’re Catholic, we have to accept it as valid… and I can’t (it’s also interesting to discover how the filioque came about, and who was responsible).

    Legalistic concept of salvation: to be more specific, I’m bothered by the whole Anselmian concept of “satisfactionalism”, which was unfortunately adopted in the West. The idea that God has emotions like we do, and that the original sin offended Him so much that His justice demanded the death of His Son. It’s like God is a businessman, we’re his employees, and salvation is a business transaction. It also gives rise to the idea that our salvation is dependent upon God’s attitude towards us, rather than our attitude towards God. The Orthodox are absolutely right when they say that Protestantism is the “egg laid by the Roman Catholic Church”, as Bishop Kallistos Ware puts it.

    Also: the idea of temporal vs. eternal punishment, which is foreign to us. I’ve had discussions with Catholics who try to tell us how wonderful “Divine Mercy Sunday” is. I explain that we don’t do divine mercy Sunday, because we believe that ALL “punishment” is remitted in the mystery of repentance. But how can we hold both of these beliefs as valid?

    The Immaculate Conception: I believe that the Mother of God was without sin, as do the Orthodox… the problem with the IC is that not only is it is based on the idea of original sin being a “stain” (which is foreign to our theology), but this doctrine exempts the Theotokos from not only sin, but even from all temptation… what merit is there in being without sin if you never had to face temptation? I believe that the Mother of God was sinless because she successfully resisted temptation, not because she was created without a falled human nature. She wouldn’t have died at all if the IC were true, since physical death is an effect of original sin…. which is, I imagine, the reason why the West leans towards a belief that she was assumed alive.

    You’ll certainly find many references to her purity and sinlessness in the writings of the Fathers, but you won’t find anything about her being created exempt from “the stain of original sin” and its effects. Duns Scotus was the one who came up with this, and other saints like St. Catherine of Siena and St. Thomas Aquinas rejected it.

    Re doctrinal development, there’s a difference between doctrinal development and doctrinal clarification, which is what I submit took place at the early councils. Doctrinal development means building new stuff on top of already-revealed doctrines, and I don’t see where that happened. The councils simply settled disagreements when there was a question of what is correct and what isn’t. They didn’t add to already-revealed doctrines.

    Re the papacy: I believe that the bishop of Rome is supposed to be basicallya referee… keeping to his own diocese for the most part, but interceding to settle any issues that arise between his brother bishops. I DON’T think he’s supposed to be a monarch with universal jurisdiction… that means that every Catholic diocese in the world has not one bishop, but two.

    Basically, Eric, I’m coming to the conclusion that I can’t be Roman Catholic in doctrine and Orthodox in praxis; the theology in your head has to match the theology you practice. Frankly I’m finding that being a Byzantine Rite Catholic is schizophrenic, because you have to accept as valid two theologies that aren’t merely different, but contradictory.

    I also find that I feel that I’m only “half Eastern”, in that there are so many Latinizations in our churches. I feel like I’m in limbo, between two Churches, and not really accepted by either.

    God bless!

    Comment posted September 17th, 2006 at 8:02 pm
  4. Eric says:

    Karen—Thanks for reading my long, long post and offering your comments. I wish I had ample time—not to mention knowledge and wisdom—to adequately respond to the issues you raise. My hope is that other voices will contribute to the discussion. Towards that end I have posted something on BEMA about this article, and also added some subheadings to make it a little more readable.

    About the filioque, it’s all a bit over my head, but consider this passage from John: “[Jesus] breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'” (Jn 20:22).

    Here the apostles receive the Holy Spirit quite literally from Jesus. Granted, we aren’t looking here at the eternal spiration of the spirit, but neither is the mystery of Pentecost entirely disconnected form the eternal mystery of the communion of trinitarian persons. Jesus is not just a channel of the Holy Spirit in the upper room; he takes action proper to his own mission as Son to offer the Spirit to the apostles.

    It seems to me that all we are required to accept as Byzantine Catholics is that the Roman Catholic Church does not hold a heretical doctrine of the Trinity. The Latin Church had been using the filioque for centuries before Photius made it the centerpiece of his schism, and the bishops of East and West at Florence agreed that the Latin formula, properly understood, was orthodox.

    About the Immaculte Conception, I would point to Irmos of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross:

    O Mother of God, you became a mystical paradise when without tilling you brought forth Christ our God, by whom the life-giving tree of the Cross was planed on earth . . .

    Look at the allusions here: “mystical paradise” . . . “without tilling” (cf. Gn 3:19) . . . “life-giving tree” (cf. Gn 2:9). This Irmos links Mary to the Garden of Eden, to the prelapsarian state of man, to what John Paul II called “original innocence.”

    Isn’t that really what the doctine of the Immaculate Conception is trying to do—to declare that in Mary there is a restoration of the original nature of man, that Mary is the new Eve? And that, in her, all mankind is given the opportunity to say to God, “Thy will be done”?

    I don’t see how this means that Mary was free of temptation. Obviously neither Adam nor Eve was free of temptation, for they were tempted and fell. Even Jesus, mysteriously, was tempted. Why not Mary too?

    In any case, the capacity to resist temptation is given to us only through grace. The Orthodox are not Pelagian heretics, teaching that man can save himself through his own efforts; Mary does not resist temptation and remain sinless solely by being the just daughter of Israel—though she is that too—but because the is radically open to God’s grace, possessed of that faith which is always a gift, to such a degree that we struggle to grasp it; I think that’s really what the Immaculate Conception and the beautiful Byzantine Irmosi that always link Mary to the eternal mystery of salvation are trying to get at.

    As for the papacy, I agree with you the problem of “universal jurisdiction,” but it looks to me as if both Pope John Paul II, who wrote the lamentably unanswered Ut Unum Sint, and Pope Benedict XIV, who dropped the title “Patriarch of All the West,” have some problems with that notion too.

    But as for the Pope’s jurisdiction within the Roman Catholic Church, is there not from the very beginning a heirarchy within the episcopate? Does the Patriarch of Moscow not wield authority over the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church?

    Finally, about Latinizations, we couldn’t be in greater agreement. What’s the situation like at your own parish?

    I’m connected to two parishes. I am jurisdictionally a Ruthenian, and my home parish is Annunciation of the Mother of God Church in Homer Glen, IL. But I live an hour away in Aurora, IL and most often worship, and frequently cantor, at St. George Church, in the Romanian eparchy of Canton, OH.

    Both parishes are working to restore Byzantine tradition. Annunciation is doing so agressively; two parishes and a mission were combined in 1999 in a new temple build in strict accordance with tradition, and the pastor, Fr. Tom Loya, is working tirelessly to restore Byzantine Catholic identity not only within the Ruthenian Church but throughout the Eastern and Western Christian worlds.

    St. George, with its own unique history, is moving much more slowly to recover an authentically Byzantine identity. We still have Holy Water fonts; stained glass mingles Byzantine and Roman symbols in the hideous style of the 1960s; the congregation kneels during the anaphora.

    But in the 18 months I’ve been there, the pastor, a Benedictine monk who is one of the most deeply Byzantine men I know, has managed to quietly replace the Stations of the Cross with a series of beautiful Greek icons—Paraskeva, Demetrios, Mary of Egypt—and to remove pews from the front and back of the church. At long last the Church has an awesome Pantocrator, and plans are in place to add more crucial icons to the ceiling of the church and, eventually, to get rid of the stained glass. I see hope that we will also see some of the pews removed and the practice of kneeling restored to its proper place within our tradition.

    Your right about being in a kind of “limbo,” not really accepted by either the Latins or the Greeks. But that’s just my point about being Byzantine Catholic: the Schism shouldn’t be acceptable to either the Latins or the Greeks, and so in a sense the chimera of the Uniate Churches shouldn’t be acceptable either. We shouldn’t exist, but we do, and I believe we’re here because somebody needs to be living and suffering on a daily basis with the contradictions and scandal of the Great Schism.

    Comment posted September 18th, 2006 at 3:17 pm
  5. Karl says:

    Dear Karen,

    Eric asked me to come take a look at this interesting dialogue. There’s much to talk about, but I just want to focus on the following:

    : I believe that the Mother of God was without sin, as do the Orthodox… the problem with the IC is that not only is it is based on the idea of original sin being a “stain” (which is foreign to our theology), but this doctrine exempts the Theotokos from not only sin, but even from all temptation… what merit is there in being without sin if you never had to face temptation? I believe that the Mother of God was sinless because she successfully resisted temptation, not because she was created without a falled human nature.

    You are arguing that being subject to temptation is a superior state than not being subject to temptation. If that’s the case, I’m the best person in the world, since I’m subject to constant temptation! I as a Christian don’t want simply to reach a state where I can conquer the temptations that come my way, I want to reach a state where temptations don’t come.

    You also speak rather westernly when you ask “what merit is there?” Did the Theotokos need to merit something, to earn grace by accomplishment of some deed? That would be a legalistic way of thinking.

    This is, as I said, an interesting and valuable discussion. On questions of the pope, may I recommend you take a look at Soloviev’s “The Russian Church and the Papacy?” It would be worth reading before you take any steps. Too often, people in our situation only read polemics from the Orthodox side, think that the case is well-made, and fail to look at the best arguments for the Catholic side. Fairness requires that we look at both sides.

    Comment posted September 18th, 2006 at 5:03 pm
  6. Karen says:

    Hi Eric!

    You know, I think the problem between the East and the West is that our theologies are built on entirely different premises. It’s like the west builds on concrete and the East on stone.

    Re your passage about Jesus breathing on the Apostles, I once used that to defend the Filioque to an Orthodox guy. 🙂 The thing is, the Orthodox position doesn’t deny that the Spirit proceeds THROUGH the Son, simply that He doesn’t proceed FROM Him. It kind of turns the trinity on its head to say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both of Them (which gives rise to the Scott Hahnian idea that the Holy Spirit is the “child” of the Father and the Son. And if the Father can spirate and the Son can spirate, then you can’t say that the Spirit doesn’t spirate. Yes, this is a complicated, sticky issue, the Filioque.

    Re the Immaculate Conception, again, the issue is really with the idea that she was preserved from the effects of original sin– which includes concupicence (the tendency to sin). That’s what I meant by “temptation.” Basically, what the IC means is that the Mother of God was exempt from our fallen human nature! And again, since death is one of the effects of original sin, this would have meant she never experienced physical death. But the vast majority of Christian tradition teaches that she did die before her assumption. Basically, if she died, that means that she was not exempt from the effects of original sin– although she remained free of personal sin. And even Jesus assumed not just humanity, but the fallen state of humanity, experiencing pain, fatigue, the ability to be tempted, and death. He had to: “that which is not assumed is not healed.”

    The thing with Adam and Eve’s temptation is that it really wasn’t “temptation”, as much as it was a perfect choice. It’s like a nonsmoker trying a cigaratte as opposed to a smoker who already has an addiction to nicotine.

    If God could preserve the Mother of God from original sin and its effects, why doesn’t He simply do that for us all?

    Re the episcopate in Orthodoxy, actually it’s pretty different than it is in the Catholic Church; in the OCA, for example, if Archbishop Demetrios wants to ordain a new deacon or priest, Metropolitan Herman cannot interfere– if he tries, he’d better have darn good reason, and evidence to prove it. Orthodox Bishops generally don’t step on each other’s toes.. they’re more egalitarian that Catholicism.

    My parish isn’t too bad re Latinizations… we do have the rosary before liturgy, but that’s because Father has problems with his legs and feet, and has trouble standing for long periods of time. He’s wonderful, though.. we’re very blessed to have him. We also have holy water fonts, but I consider that to be pretty minor compared to, say, Stations of the Cross and statues.

    Sounds like I’d love the parishes you attend! I’ve corresponded with Fr. Thomas via ByzCath, and he’s great. I met his cousin, Fr. Joseph Loya at a catechesis seminar in Orlando. He was the main speaker.

    We’re lucky… I know a BC (Ukranian church) whose parish is basically divided into factions: the Byzantine Ukranians, and the Latin Traditionalists. The pastor totally favors the latter, and has introduced a lot of Latinizations to pander to them. It’s really sad, but that’s one of things that you deal with– traditional-minded Latins coming to our parishes to escape novus ordo new-age nuttiness, and trying to take over.

    Re your comments about what it’s like to be a Byzantine Rite Catholic, I’m reminded of a comparison someone made once on ByzCath: that it’s like being the child of divorced parents.

    God bless, Eric, and thanks!

    Comment posted September 18th, 2006 at 6:47 pm
  7. Karen says:

    Hi Karl,

    You say, “You are arguing that being subject to temptation is a superior state than not being subject to temptation. If that’s the case, I’m the best person in the world, since I’m subject to constant temptation!”

    Second only to me, I’m afraid! lol

    You say, “I as a Christian don’t want simply to reach a state where I can conquer the temptations that come my way, I want to reach a state where temptations don’t come.”

    Good luck to you with that, lol. I think even when we get to the point where we aren’t tempted to commit certain sins, there will always be temptation in one area of our lives or another, as long as we’re alive. Right now, I’m having a hard enough time trying to conquer temptations, never mind getting rid of them altogether! I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it… IF I come to it… 🙂

    I wouldn’t say that being subject to temptation is a “superior state”, just that it’s not too hard to remain sinless when you’re free of concupicence. I don’t smoke, and it’s therefore requires nothing of me to resist lighting up. I’m “free of the stain of nicotine addiction.” Do you think smokers who are trying to quit will really be able to identify with me?

    I don’t speak of “merit” as if the Theotokos had to “earn” anything; I think the above paragraph explains. I just think that it sort of undermines the Mother of God to say that her great holiness was something she was simply born with, and therefore required little or no effort on her part to cooperate with and to nurture. I think all too often we look at Our Lady as a being super-human, rather than perfectly human.

    I’ve read that book, by the way, thanks… I think I’m going to read it again. God bless!

    Comment posted September 18th, 2006 at 7:11 pm
  8. Susan Peterson says:

    You know, I was recently in an ORTHODOX church which has not only Western looking stained glass windows, but a big painting (the same one seen in many Latin rite churches-of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. There is also a very Western looking crucifix in the front yard. This is a church that was Byzantine Catholic and went Orthodox….but they have had a lot of time since 1938 to remove the Assumption of the Virgin if they thought it was incompatible with being Eastern Christians! Maybe they just aren’t insecure about their Eastern-ness.

    The issue is really true worship, not cultural purity, isnt it?
    Not that I think Latin traditionalists ought to come in and change Byzantine parishes …but if the Byzantine parishes have some long standing Western traditions or art that people are attached to, it isn’t necessarily an atrocity. It is better to add icons and get people in the habit of venerating them, then to insist on taking away something Western people are attached to. Lets have the full liturgy and not worry about the length of it. Lets have matins and vespers. (these are really a Western custom too, you know, morning prayer and evening prayer in the Book of Common Prayer are a survival of this from English Catholicism.). I think if we go for the fullness of Eastern worship, we don’t really have to worry about a few Western survivals.

    Karen, you sound pretty close to being Orthodox already. I do suggest that you try reading what others have suggested to you. I also hope that you spend a lot of time in serious prayer over this, and tell God that you will go wherever He wants you to go, or stay where He wants you to stay, if He just lets you know. Then, if you believe you know what that is, or even feel 90% sure, you have to do it. All who are sincerely trying to obey Him themselves will wish you blessings.

    I like to remember that (in admittedly Western language) the Church Triumphant (the Church in Heaven) is One. Just think of that, NO schism at all.
    In Christ,
    Susan Peterson

    Comment posted September 22nd, 2006 at 5:53 pm
  9. Luz says:

    How does making a woman’s body into a baby-dropping machine not desecrate the mystical union? We are allowed to choose who we have the mystical union with and yet, once in it, we are apparently condemned to child after child after child regardless of how fit we are to be parents of 6 or 10 or 12. If we can choose who to marry, whether or not to marry, whether or not to become monastics then why not whether we are to be parents of one or 3 or 9? The woman who has always wanted to be a mom when other girls wanted to be nurses or egyptologists is not unselfish when she has 5 kids, she’s indulging herself, no? Someone who brings up one child well is honouring God more than a perpetually pregnant slob in a house like a midden feeding 8 kids on cheap hamburgers. I don’t know many Orthodox or Catholics with huge families, they may start off wanting to be “open” to God that way but commonsense steps in and after a few babies most of them are avid practitioners of “natural family planning” which is, lets face it, nowadays as effective as the pill if used properly (and I speak as an RN with training in that area). People use NFP to get pregnant, it’s that good, and it doesn’t fail because you eat a dodgy tuna casserole either. What is it with some folks wanting others to be perpetually pregnant? It amazes me and I am cradle orthodox, btw.

    Comment posted October 13th, 2006 at 2:20 pm
  10. Eric says:

    Gosh, Luz, I’m not sure who you think you’re arguing with. But some of the many mothers of large families that know might take issue with your description of the “perpetually pregnant slob.”

    Nobody’s trying to tell you how many kids to have—elsewhere on this blog I’ve championed Natural Family Planning—but you might want to reconsider some of your attitudes about large families. Someone who didn’t know better might think you’re a bigot.

    Comment posted October 16th, 2006 at 11:48 am
  11. Ad Orientem says:

    Susan Peterson & Eric,
    Most Orthodox accept the Assumption as a pious tradition. Thus there is nothing wrong with artwork commemorating it in our parishes. A number of Orthodox parishes were once Eastern Catholic. The abuse heaped on them by Latin bishops back in the early part of the last century drove many back into Orthodoxy. However the date on which the Assumption is commemorated in the West is the date we commemorate the Dormition of the Holy Theotokis. What concerns most of us is that many Latins do not believe Mary died. The Doctrine of the IC would seem to imply that. Even though at one time the feast of the Dormition was universally commemorated in the West as well. If Mary was preserved from the stain of ancestral sin then logically she would not have died since mortality is certainly the one consequence of the fall that East and West agree on.

    In Orthodoxy we are not big fans of Blessed Augustine’s theories on original sin and its consequences. Thus our rejection of the IC as it is taught in the West. Indeed a great deal of what followed in the scholastic tradition was built on the false doctrines taught by Augustine. The failure of the Latin Church to properly understand grace (uncreated versus created energies), the confusion of the God Head by the elevation of the second person of the Trinity to a point which implicitly challenges the monarchy of the Father and finally the Western understanding of original sin constitute the three great theological barriers to restoration of communion which are the gift of Augustine to the Roman Church. Add to this the top down ecclesiology of the Roman Church and the dogmatic definitions of Vatican Council I (which all Orthodox regard as heresy) and you have some pretty tough ground to overcome if you want to end the schism.


    Comment posted October 27th, 2006 at 1:28 am
  12. Very Rev. Fr. Gregori says:

    Dear Erik and Karl;
    Having been (and still am) an Orthodox Catholic priest since 1983, I would like to try and clear up some things.

    First; We do NOT feel that kissing icons and receiving the Eucharist on Easter (which we refer to as Resurrection Sunday) constitutes the satisfying the demands of Faith. We have always urged the faithful to participate, if possible on a daily basis, fully in the life of the Church. The R.C’s are the ones who seem to feel that they only need to show up at church for the Christmas Eve Mass and the Easter Sunday Mass.

    Second; We believe that every one born after Adam and Eve, are born with a “SIN NATURE” call it the “STAIN” of ORIGINAL SIN” or a sin nature, we are all born with it. This is a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. We also believe that this led to not only mankind’s sin nature, but also to the corruption of all God’s creation. The Theotokos was not free of this sin nature, which is why she suffered a physical death and was NOT assumed body and soul into heaven. The only one to have been born without this natural tendency toward sin, was Jesus Christ, although He was capable of being tempted.

    Third; As to not having a magistarium, the Holy Scriptures, the oral and written teachings of the Apostles and the early Church Fathers, along with the Holy Traditions are our magistarium. In the Orthodox Church, ALL of the Bishops are considered equal. Metropolitans (Archbishops) who head large Metropolitan areas or cities, and Patriarchs who are the heads of National Churches (Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, etc.) are all equal. They are are only given deference because they head larger areas and are turned to for advice on ecclesiastical matters by bishops of smaller cities, but they cannot claim individual infallibility. And if a Synod is called for the purpose of deciding Thological arguments, not only bishops (which includes bishops of individual Sees, Metropolitans and the Patriarchs) but also representatives of the presbyters (priests), representatives of the deaconate, nuns, monks and even the laity are present and they ALL have an equal vote.

    The Patriarchs cannot just pick who they want to make a bishop, generally, the person to be consecrated to the episcopacy must be elected by the people of the See he is to lead. In some Orthodox Churches, even those who are to be ordained to the priesthood are elected by the members of the parish they will be at. Even the Patriarchs are elected by the people and they can be removed by the will of the people.

    Fourth; I haven’t done any reading on the topic lately, but when I was still a monastic student studying for the priesthood, we were taught that contraception was frowned upon because it led to the degradation of man’s image as being the likeness of God. The act of intercourse was ment to be a thing of beauty, a means of procreation and the ultimate expression of love between a husband and wife. Today, with the availability of condoms, birth control bills, spermacides, etc, sexual relationships have been turned into a passtime and a means of personal gratification with no commitments to ones sexual partner and no sense of personal responsibility. Often, love has nothing what-so-ever to do with the relationship. What has this led to? Take a look around, we have co-habitation outside of marriage, children being born out of wedlock, abortions on demand, no-fault divorces, people hopping indiscrimately from bed to bed with no more morals than an alley cat in heat, and now we are even facing the redefining of the meaning of marriage by those who are pushing for the legalization of “same-sex” marriages. By and large, most of the Churches of the West which includes the Roman Catholic and Many of the Protestant denominations tend to remain silent on these issues, in a large part due to “political correctness” which makes people tend to shut up and not speak the truth because they may offend someone. And then you have the Anglicans who support openly a lot of immorality. There may a few individual Orthodox Bishops who have wavered on these issues, but for the most part, the Orthodox Church as a whole does not remain silent on these matters of faith and morals and nor does it waver.

    Yes, I agree that the “Great Schism” must be healed, but there are many things standing in the way such as Papal Supremacy. No true Orthodox will ever accept this, however we do honor the Bishop of Rome as the “First among equals”. Then there are various innovations which Rome has introduced into the Western Church which are not Scriptural and have never been held by the Church before the Great Schism. Two of these being indugences and the second is teaching that Mary is the co-Redemptrix with Jesus Christ. We in the Orthodox Church have great respect for the Theotokos and we honor her with a special honor, especially in the Acathistos, but we do not believe that she is the co-remptrix with Jesus Christ. Only Jesus suffered and died for our salvation, NOT THE THEOTOKOS.

    Fr. “Abouna” Gregori

    Comment posted November 18th, 2006 at 2:51 pm
  13. Herb says:

    Abouna Gregori et alia,
    You seem to have stated dogmatically and infallibly that Mary was not assumed.
    What is your prove? Were you there? Did you take her body?
    Curiously, do a Google search for Orthodox and Assumption.
    It is amazing how many Orthodox churches in the US are named Holy Assumption and they are Greek, Russian, OCA, etc.
    An orthodox website:

    In Her Prayers, the Orthodox Church praises the Mother of God as “All-Immaculate” and “Most Immaculate” and Most Holy etc. The Orthodox Church believes and celebrates the Dormition and Assumption into Heaven of the Body and Soul of the Mother of God, but has never defined these, since Her Liturgy has always defined them. Our worship expresses our faith.

    A belief in the Assumption of Mary has likewise been deeply rooted in the hearts of Eastern Christians. Every August 15, in fact, they celebrate the feast of the Dormition of the Holy Virgin. Though the word dormition literally refers to “the falling asleep of the Virgin,” it is clear from the prayers used that petitioners are recalling the Assumption of Mary into heaven because “the tomb and death were not able to hold in sleep the Mother of God.”

    Comment posted August 29th, 2007 at 11:16 am
  14. Herb says:

    Now for the Mary didn’t have the fallen nature evidenced because she died.
    You admit that Jesus didn’t have this fallen nature.
    But Jesus died.
    There fallen nature and death are not necessarily connected.
    Therefore if fallen nature and death are not connected Mary might not have had the fallen nature either.

    Comment posted August 29th, 2007 at 11:21 am
  15. Herb says:

    Abiuna Gregori also attests that the Theotokos didn’t died for our salvation.
    All Catholics agree to that too but that is not what co-redemptrix means.
    Co means “with”
    Co does not mean “second” or “equal or “another”
    Think of the word Co-operation. It means work “with”
    It does not mean to do the work again.
    Certainly, Mary cooperated in the redemption by saying “do unto me according to your word”
    You assume to much for the word co-redemptrix. It only means she helped with the redemption. She did not save us.

    Ironically, many Byzantine prayers say “O, Theotokos, save us.” or “O, Theotokos, you are our salvation.”

    Comment posted August 29th, 2007 at 11:30 am
  16. jogomu says:


    The Church is Mary. Mary is the Church. That is Step 1.

    Step 2 is picking the communion that works like the Holy Family. Namely, where All-Holiness is in a chaste marriage with Less-Holiness and obeys him while rearing God who is conceived of the Holy Spirit in/of All-Holiness but Who obeys them both.

    I think this is solidly and easily Catholic. If you like the Eastern stuff then go Byzantine. Diversity isn’t evil. Start painting icons of St Joseph though b/c they are sorely needed!

    For fruit-tasters, gotta look at the canon of Saints. In a field with tares the average sample isn’t going to tell you anything.

    Christ’s Peace to all.

    Comment posted November 12th, 2007 at 1:10 am
  17. Karen says:


    “The Church is Mary”? She’s the MOTHER of the Church, but she is not the Church.

    Herb, Orthodoxy teaches that Jesus assumed the same human nature we have; He was subject to temptation, to suffering, to death, etc. He had to… “That which is not assumed is not healed.” He simply didn’t sin.

    What “Co-Redemptrix” means is that the Mother of God contributed to our redemption through her suffering at the cross, which is, to be blunt, a strange and un-apostolic idea. She gave birth to the Word, so yes, in that sense she participated in our redemption. But Jesus is our Redeemer– He, and not the Theotokos, died and rose to free us from Satan’s bondage.

    Comment posted November 13th, 2007 at 12:18 pm
  18. jogomu says:

    Hi Karen:

    “He who has seen Mary has seen the Church.”

    This isn’t to say that the Church is a unipersonal mystery just as “He who has seen me has seen the Father” isn’t to say that God is a unipersonal mystery. Nevertheless Mary is sufficient to reveal the whole mystery of the Church in history.

    This revelation of the Church in history submitted to a husband who was less holy than she was. This is precisely what my Orthodox friends do not wish to do. Therefore I call them non-Marian… disassociated from the “destroyer of heresies.”

    Every Christian is a co-redeemer in an imperfect way. In Mary we just see this role without imperfection. Anyone interested in this topic of co-redemption must read Salvifici Doloris.

    “That which is not assumed is not healed.” Does this mean that woman is not healed since Jesus didn’t assume a woman’s body? Was Jesus the perfect woman? We need to become re-anchored in the “New Eve” language of the Fathers. It is a more important and more ancient designation than Theotokos. Read Newman’s letter to Dr Pusey.

    Comment posted November 14th, 2007 at 11:21 am
  19. Karen says:

    Hi Jogomu 🙂

    When you put it like “He who has seen Mary has seen the Church”, that’s a bit different… I just didn’t like the sound of “Mary is the Church.”

    I also like what you say about every Christian being a co-redeemer in an imperfect way. As an Easterner, I just don’t like overdogmatizing nonessential elements of the Faith or putting every mystery under a Scholastic microscope.

    And, no, regarding “that which is not assumed is not healed” doesn’t mean women are not healed– He assumed our human nature, and men and women share that. 😉

    Comment posted November 16th, 2007 at 9:52 pm
  20. jogomu says:

    Hi Karen:

    The Fall of human nature was not brought about in the original solitude of Adam. It was brought about by the communion of Adam and Eve who together represented human nature, male and female. 1 Tim 2:14

    Human nature, male and female, fell. Human nature, male and female, accomplished our redemption. When you say that men and women share human nature, I think you are denying my premise that human nature itself cannot be represented without both sexes, which I take to be appropriate for a hypothetical world where the Fall happened via Adam in solitude. But that isn’t our world!

    “As Eve by the speech of an Angel was seduced, so as to flee God, transgressing His word, so also Mary received the good tidings by means of the Angel’s speech, so as to bear God within her, being obedient to His word. And, though the one had disobeyed God, yet the other was drawn to obey God; that of the virgin Eve the Virgin Mary might become the advocate. And, as by a virgin the human race had been bound to death, by a virgin it is saved, the balance being preserved, a virgin’s disobedience by a virgin’s obedience.” (St Irenaeus)

    Comment posted November 25th, 2007 at 2:14 am
  21. Victor says:

    Why is it that Catholics are always the ones trying to unify with the Orthodox Church, and not vice-versa? Why is it that Orthodox believers just want to be left alone? Because for Orthodox believers the Church is a national institution, and Catholics continually miss the point here: we don’t need or want a schsmatic Roman bishop exercising authority over our lands. And ironically, the Orthodox church is both more historically consistent and more reasonable: priests are allowed to marry, divorce is permitted, and the notion of inherited sin is frowned upon. Lastly… the Orthodox church never helped in the enslavement of entire continents or the genocide of the Americas. Our history is pure.

    Comment posted April 15th, 2008 at 6:43 pm
  22. James says:

    {choking on my coffee} ‘divorce is permitted’?? Well there’s one reason why the Orthodox church needs the authority of Rome.

    Comment posted April 16th, 2008 at 9:13 am
  23. Eric says:

    Victor asks: “Why is it that Catholics are always the ones trying to unify with the Orthodox Church, and not vice-versa?”

    Why are the Catholics the ones seeking unity? Because the Catholics are the ones who carry the principle of unity, manifest in the Chair of Peter.

    How would the Orthodox go about seeking unity? Who “speaks for” the Orthodox? Who would initiate the negotiations?

    As for Orthodox history being “pure,” one need only look back a couple decades, to the collusion of Orthodox heirarchs with the regimes of the communist bloc, to see it ain’t so.

    Nobody’s history is pure.

    Comment posted April 16th, 2008 at 1:00 pm
  24. John says:

    On 25th May 2008 Nicolae Corneanu, the Orthodox Metropolite of Banat – Romania, asked and received the Communion during a greek-catholic Liturgy that he attended in Timisoara, causing joy to the audience that was praying 14 hours continuously before the Liturgy for the unity of Church and a lot of protests in the orthodox world that is still considering the Catholic Church as being heretic.

    For more details click here:

    Comment posted June 10th, 2008 at 3:14 am
  25. Laura says:

    As a Roman Catholic, I have long admired Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches for the respect and reverence that we seem to have lost in most of our parishes. However, I find that Eastern Churches tend to be more “ethnic”, language and custom-wise. I am not Slavic or Greek or Russian or Coptic. Much of the symbolism is lost on me. The best I can hope for at this point is the revival of the Old Latin Mass in my area. Issues like filioque give me a headache. I leave those questions to greater minds than mine. I would love to see Eastern-Western unity, and as far as I am concerned it doesn’t have to be institutionally so. East and West always had different calendars and customs. I would just like to see us united in an increasingly anti-Church world.

    Comment posted August 3rd, 2008 at 4:21 pm
  26. PRAXIS OBNOXIA says:

    I have been studying theologies for a while now. Both Eastern and Western. I collected a large mass of knowledge in sacramental, moral, and dogmatic theology. I have a wide collection of books, so I feel I can handle most objections when asked, though I am no card carrying apologist with a Pontifical Catechis certificate.

    You hear various arguments, on grace and efficacy of works: faith alone or baptism and faith. Well baptism is a good work, produced by Jesus Christ. So I believe in Faith as a work, and effected by an external rite called baptism — which is the sacrament of faith.

    Yet, I find it very interesting and even obnoxious that the New Church of Vatican II (which claims to be the Church of Christ that subsists in the Catholic Church) has established a foreign rite to suppress the traditionl Latin Tridentine Catholic praxis (from the Council of Trent) to the point of invalidating the grace of baptism in this Novus Ordo rite. I’m not sure what is the mainstream Protestant stance on this new baptism?

    In fact, I recently read this new scholarly book on the topic entitled “Praxis Obnoxia: A Moral-Theological Conclusion On The New Modernist Rite of Baptism.”


    I am very impressed with it, and I cannot refute its arguments, scholarship — tons of quotes from theologians, doctors, councils, and Popes. Basically, the book proves the new rite of baptism is null and void–that means there is no valid baptism in the Vatican II church, and thus no valid sacraments and no salvation in that sect. It seems “very weird”, I admit at first, but the facts are the facts, and I had to read the book a few times to really grasp the significance of what has happened since 1960s. Once you get the book you cannot put it down, it is so intense in scholastic volume.

    I even spent some days of hours in the Gordon-Conwell College libraries to talk to some doctors, and even had a debate with a Greek Orthodox Professor from Harvard on this topic of conditional rebaptism or economia or oikonomia.

    Not sure what’s your stance? It seems Saint Cyprian would of rebaptized people coming from the New Church to the traditional Orthodox Catholic Church of the Romans.

    Any opinions on this? A book review perhaps? Are you familar with “Praxis Obnoxia”? I must say this is a “Hot Topic” with Traditionalists and Conservatives.

    Comment posted August 30th, 2008 at 6:16 pm
  27. Ed Burke says:

    The Roman Catholic Church uses unleavened bread for communion. I think the Orthodox Church is recognized by the Vatican as being just as ‘true’ as the Roman Catholic Church. I think I also heard that the Orthodox church uses, or may use, leavened bread for communion.

    Comments please.

    Comment posted September 20th, 2009 at 9:46 am
  28. TrueFail says:

    Please understand that i am a part of the Orthodox church and I am Ethiopian.
    we alone believe the truth script. They teach us the bible but some scripts written outside of the bible like “The book of Enoch”
    which catholic church had took out of the bible or from being teach to general population are taught to the monks and priests only.
    I understand the book of Enoch is not exactly a world of god rather it was written by Enoch who is believed to be taken by god.
    Catholics and Orthodox have our own of weakens, but you must understand that The orthodox church didn’t broke up from Roman Catholic Church for nothing.
    If you see Catholic church it changes drastically over the years, but orthodox church had stayed the same. unfortunately the Catholic church made far more mistakes that is why Satan worked his way to create reformation and now we have protestants which is sad because this religion is growing so fast that they are teaching people the wrong message. Their bible is so wrong. I had friends who are protestants and it is really sad to see them that way. Almost 300 different church all have different bible and all are wrong, look if catholic church was strong and right it could have not happened.
    The orthodox church holds on to the truth. WE kiss the statue or picture not because we worship it but to show love, we don’t idolize them.
    we have a big respect for are fellow Catholics but we also know there are thing that the catholic is doing.
    In orthodox church you have to take your shoes off, boys and girl placed in different places, Woman who is having her period can’t go to church, because it is the house of god her body had to be clean.
    We have tabet or Tabot
    Just like god had asked to do so, telling us exactly how to make it,church is not considered a church without it. the church is only for praying and praising god and singing to god we do not have wedding in church or some kind ceremony.
    The girl has to cover their hair and we mostly wear white.
    The priests never get married (just like Catholics) and the monks also.
    Only the higher priest can see the tabot. we do not eat pork and such meat. We fast on Wednesday and Friday and some other days.
    The monks are taught in Greek or abugida which is based on the language of Hebrew. Even though we speak Amharic the teaching and prayers and songs are spoken with the old languages those people who wrote the bible in behalf of god spoke,

    The church teaches the bible in Amharic which is taught to the majority of the people in Ethiopia.

    A child will be baptized after a few weeks he/she is born and that he had become a part of god church and not to show he/she is the part of the church but he/she is also a Christine now.
    Mostly we do what the bible told us to do so, just because Jesus is our savior doesn’t mean a church could be without Tabot (The ark)
    Jesus is our savior and for that matter we could be saved but like we both agree on Good deeds are necessary i wish the protestant understand that,

    Sorry for my English, but just trying to make some thing clear.

    Thanks for taking your time to read this and thank you.

    Comment posted February 20th, 2010 at 10:20 am
  29. Arica Pavel says:

    Stuart, you could also leave Australia, and go to a country that has less discrimination and a good nudist colony. Yet you stay here and fight the government.

    Comment posted June 19th, 2012 at 10:05 pm