"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history." -Cardinal Francis George

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I love the Orthodox too much to be Orthodox (or How I learned to stop worrying and love the atomic bomb of Holy Orders)

There is a great article at Called to Communion about Orthodoxy. Here is an excerpt that resonated with me. "in Catholicism there is an authoritative, principled basis for a mutual respect of the successors of the Apostles that springs from this view of Holy Orders. In relegating the Bishop of Rome and those in communion with him to something lower, there is a sense in which Orthodoxy has lowered Herself at the same time, tragically." I love the Orthodox too much to be Orthodox (or How I learned to stop worrying and love the atomic bomb of Holy Orders)


  1. With the utmost respect, I found the article very unhelpful. Three basic reasons come to mind:

    First, I'm not sure why the Orthodox lack of "respect" for the sacrament performed by heterodox clergy is a problem. As one commentator on the article noted, many Fathers (he cited St. Basil) observed that the clergy of schismatic and heretical groups became laypeople upon the schism of heresy and thus their "sacraments" are of no effect. If this view is a cause for concern, then we must deal with the fact that it is quite old and held by very many Fathers across time and place.

    Second, whether the Orthodox view is incorrect turns on how we view apostolic succession. If it really is just a formalistic line of ceremony going back through the years, then yes, other groups may have it. But if, as Orthodox would maintain, apostolic succession is a sign and safeguard of orthodoxy because it is a continuous, public proclamation of the same Faith by successive clergy and teachers, then schismatics and heretics would, in a sense, not have it. Certain "high church" Protestants can trace their ordinations back to the Apostles, I'm sure. But are we bound to respect their sacraments?

    Orthodox would simply maintain, I think, that one cannot be a successor to the Apostles and be heterodox. That reduces the Church to empty rites and formulas and seriously undermines the importance of the confession of Faith. In that sense, Catholicism lowers herself and Christianity to the level of incantation.

    Third, the article is very historically contingent, and even historically blind. Has the Catholic Church always been so accepting? Lest we forget, Catholics respected Orthodox enough to set up competing patriarchs. While the office of the Latin Patriarch of Constantinople was mercifully abolished in the 1960s, arguably when Rome began to put forward a softer face in matters ecumenical, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem still exists. I find it hard to square a perceived respect for Orthodox clergy and sacraments with a wholesale replacement of such clergy, a replacement which persists in some jurisdictions.

    Forgive me.

  2. Steven,

    Your comments here are very well put and bring up some interesting points. You should post it on CTC where some more intelligent response than what I can give might be possible. There are some super smart Orthodox guys on there (Perry Robinson) too. Also they put a premium on calm, respectful discussion on that site.

    You said: "First, I'm not sure why the Orthodox lack of "respect" for the sacrament performed by heterodox clergy is a problem."

    Well, perhaps for you it is no problem. I'm sure Misouri Synod Lutherans have no problem denying the sacraments of anyone but themselves too. For me it is a "notch" in Catholicism's favor that they do accept the sacraments of EO and not Protestants. Orthodox an Catholic are both so obviously connected to the faith of the early church that they should be in communion at least in some sense. Catholicism shows more progress in this area by accepting Orthodox sacraments.

    As far as the Latin Patriarchate, I find that very intereasting. I've never heard of the "competing Patriarchs." I have one question though which could deflate your entire argument. Can those in communion with the Pope (Catholics)recieve the Eucharist in the Orthodox churches in Jerusalem? If not, (I assume not) then can you see that Rome had to put churches there?

    Like I said your points are good. I would like to hear what someone more knowledgeable than I would say about the competing Patriarchs problem.

    Of course I must again point out that I bristle at the thought of determining orthodoxy from heterodoxy in a Bishop as a sign of Apostolic authority. It just seems to my simple mind that that immediatly breaks down into subjectivity. That is like determining if the President of the United States is valid based on his election AND his level of adherence to the Constitution. It wouldnt work.


    David M.

  3. Mr. Meyer,

    With respect, you've certainly claimed that Catholics and Orthodox "should be in communion at least in some sense," particularly in the context of recognizing sacraments, but I submit that you haven't offered much reason for why that's the case.

    I can see why that is: you're moving from a fragmented, subjective Protestantism to something that appears more united and more objective. But I wouldn't necessarily label acceptance of other sacraments as "progressive." Our goal is union, but it must be legitimate and not an end in itself, because that leads to false union.

    As for the Latin Patriarchs, I'm not sure when Orthodox stopped allowing Catholics to receive. I know the first time a council ever proscribed chrysmation for a Catholic seeking to return to Orthodoxy was in the 1480s; it may have been around that time. Either way, Catholic parishes existed in majority Orthodox lands, and vice versa. I still don't see why one would oust the local Bishop and add one's own if that Bishop's sacraments were respected.

    Forgive me.