Monday, December 17, 2007

Strangers in their own lands

Over at De unione ecclesiarum, Peter Gilbert references an article in the British journal the Tablet on Greek Catholicism and some of the troubles Greek Catholics face. The article, by Marcus Tanner, is entitled "Outsiders in their own land". (Note that the link to the article often leads to a "log-in to read page" but occasionally takes you straight to the article. Hence, reading it from Peter Gilbert's blog may be the easier path.)

Presented here are a few excerpts (and, Lord, forgive me, a couple of my comments):

“It’s difficult to understand if you’re not from here,” the archbishop says, pointing to the nearby tower of the ruined Augustinian abbey, where Mass was first said in the fourteenth century. “We are here in Greece, we feel Greek, are Greek, but among other Greeks there is this strong identification of Greek and Orthodox. As a result, when I take part in official ceremonies, they say ‘He’s not a bishop! He is not Orthodox.’”
I have experienced this on many occasions in the US. For example, recently my wife and I met an OCA priest and his wife. We chatted briefly and went our separate ways. Later, Khourieh noted that the priest held out his hand in the manner traditional to receive a reverential kiss. She obliged as this is a custom she routinely practices with clergy (except yours truly....). She asked me if Matushka had kissed mine. No; I hadn't thought about it at the time, but she had not. Then, looking back on the conversation, I realized there had been a slight familiarity. Also, when I had approached Batushka for the embrace of peace he had stuck out his hand for a handshake. Clearly, to them I was not a priest and we were to show respect to them with no reciprocation. C'est la vie! It's a small thing, but indicative of how we "Uniates" are often treated by our separated brethren.
...
As the Athens-based journalist Helena Smith wrote some years ago, many Greeks “still relate to the notorious declaration of the Byzantine commander Loukas Notaras (uttered days before the sacking of Constantinople in 1453) that it would be better to see the Turkish turban in the city than a cardinal’s mitre”. That mood, stiffened by the religious dimension to the Balkan wars of the 1990s, has hardly softened at all. Smith told me: “This is still a country that is very ethnocentric, where minorities are seen as a threat to the state and where to be 100 per cent Greek you must be Orthodox.”
This is endemic to Orthodoxy. While there is much talk about the Unity of the Faith, there is a tendency for many to see their jurisdiction, and the ethnicity that grounds it, as the superior others within Orthodoxy and even more so regarding Catholics in general, and Eastern Catholic in particular.
...

Back in his office, the archbishop concurred. “We have got to become really Catholic, meaning universal,” he said. “We were never really considered true Greeks anyway. Now we have to be brothers to all those coming from outside. It is the future of the Church - no Greek, no Jew, but all one in Christ. That could be something to be proud of.”
This is precisely why I crossed the Tiber. There is a fullness of Catholic Faith within the Catholic Church. By this, I mean that "the Faith of the Orthodox" (as the Synodikon of Nicaea II refers to it) only attainable in union with Rome. My faith, worship, and discipline are the same as when I was an Orthodox priest, but the fullness of that Faith is more profoundly present through communion with the Pope of Rome. This may scandalize Orthodox, and in fact probably lies much behind the manifest desire of Orthodox for Eastern Catholics to cease to exist.

May our Lord bring unity to His Church and unite all Catholic and Orthodox Christians with peace, health, safety and length of days. May our Lady the Theotokos through her intercessions convict the hearts of all of us in the Churches of God whose hardness prevents that unity for which our Lord prayed. May the confidence of hope remove all prejudice, the fruits of love melt all animosity, and the Faith that saves bless us all with eternal life to the glory of God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and always and unto ages of ages. Amen.

6 comments:

Joe said...

Father,

I am an ex-Melkite who became Orthodox so I am coming from the opposite direction as you. I just want to make two points. The first is that ethnocentrism, nationalism, and petty bickering are just as much a part of the Eastern Catholic Churches as the Orthodox and there is no evidence that having a Pope is a solution. If you don't believe me, then go to Chicago where you will find two Ukranian Catholic Cathedrals side by side, one Latinized, the other more authentically Eastern and you will find that the people do not speak to each other. Also, in many Ukranian parishes they will only use and speak Ukranian. Also, I have been in Melkite parishes where non-Arabs were treated as second class citizens.

The second point I want to make is that if you are in communion with Rome, then you must believe everything that the Pope lays down as dogma. This means the filioque (even if you don't say it), the immaculate conception of Mary, that we inherit guilt from Adam and not just the consequence of mortality and weakness; the legitimacy of indulgences, the supreme authority of the Pope that stands over even the ecumenical councils, etc.

If you believe these things, then you are not Orthodox. This is not the ancient faith of the Church. I am all for union with Rome, once Rome repents of her false teachings and returns to Holy Orthodoxy.

The Byzantine Rambler said...

Dear Joe:

There can be ethnocentrism in any community. In that you are correct. The ethnocentrism in Orthodoxy, however, is somewhat built into the fabric of its being. (It is to be pitied, and wherever possible put aside.) It is a fact that the Orthodox exist as a confederation of national Churches. This leads to a confusion of nationality with Faith.

However, more serious concerns include the lack of a commonly shared catechism and clarity of belief, leading to Churches and parishes teaching and practicing dissimilar variants.

As examples:

Suppose a Catholic becomes Orthodox: is he/she to be received on profession of faith, through Chrismation, or Baptism? On what basis is this to be decided?

Are women allowed to read the Epistle, chant?

Is abortion a sin or not?

When does the Nativity Fast begin?

Why do the Holy Week services speak directly to the authority of St Peter?

Regarding filioque, I will accept it in the full sense taught by St Basil the Great.

The Immaculate Conception is part of the Melkite Tradition. The spotlessness of the Virgin is proclaimed at every Divine Liturgy. We understand this issue and the doctrine of Original Sin from the perspective of the Eastern Fathers.

Indulgences are no more foreign to the Teachings of the Church than are the Toll Booths of Orthodoxy.

And yes, I believe in the Papacy, I follow the Pope, and submit to his authority; as did Cyril of Alexandria, Maximos the Confessor, John of Damascus and all the other Church Fathers.

I proclaim it, I affirm it, and I deny the assertion that to do so is to not be Orthodox.

If I worship the same (“ortho-doxia”) and my practice of the Faith is the same (“ortho-praxis”), in what way am I not Orthodox?

Because you say so?

Or the Patriarch of Moscow?

Or the Patriarch of Constantinople?

Who has the authority in the Orthodox Church to pass judgment on this question?

By Orthodox definition only an Ecumenical Council may do so. It is sophistry to assert that local synods take on the authority of an Ecumenical Council. Equally sophistic is the assertion that an Ecumenical Council really wasn’t one because Mt Athos feared a loss of influence. (To argue that its rejection by a majority of Orthodox Christians made it not Ecumenical begs the question, what about Egypt and the Arian controversy?)

Dear Joseph, these things that separate us are not of the Faith, they are not of God, they are of man, they are of politics.

I relished the Faith of the Orthodox. I still do, and I have found it more fully present in the Unity of the Faith that is the Catholic Church. It is this Church that St Irenaeus spoke of in defense of the Christian Faith.

If we cannot meet before the same Templon, may we not at least meet in the longing of prayer for Unity for and with each other?

Your servant,

The Byzantine Rambler

PS, This was not a focused reply, so it rambles (no pun intended). Also, I do not wish to insult Joseph or anyone else. It is for minds higher than mine to work out the "paperwork", if you will, while it is for me to pray for Unity.

PPS, I am grateful to Joe for being a regular follower of this blog. As he is an avid biliophile I suggest "The Roman Church and the Papacy" by Vladimir Soloviev, which he will probably tell me he's already read.

BJA said...

Father Rambler,

Thanks for this post.

I am Orthodox (of the not-in-union-with-Rome variety) but I have always been profoundly disturbed by the thought that the vast majority of Orthodox priests I know, being converts received by Chrismation, would not be allowed to concelebrate; that is, would not be considered duly ordained priests. Nor, it seems, would they be regarded as real Orthodox Christians either! There's something profoundly wrong with this picture.

So, I would not feel so bad if many Orthodox do not consider you to be a priest, since most Orthodox priests I know would not be considered priests in some parts of Orthodoxy.

Also, Father, is there a way that I could get in contact with you by e-mail? Many thanks.

BJA said...

Sorry, I left out a huge part of my post. I meant ON MOUNT ATHOS. Here's how it should have read:

I am Orthodox (of the not-in-union-with-Rome variety) but I have always been profoundly disturbed by the thought that the vast majority of Orthodox priests I know, being converts received by Chrismation, would not be allowed to concelebrate ON MOUNT ATHOS (WHICH MANY CONSIDER TO BE THE "HEART" OF ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY); that is, would not be considered duly ordained priests. Nor, it seems, would they be regarded as real Orthodox Christians either! There's something profoundly wrong with this picture.

So, I would not feel so bad if many Orthodox do not consider you to be a priest, since most Orthodox priests I know would not be considered priests in some parts of Orthodoxy.

Alexander said...

Amen, father! I find it extremely strange that we bend over backwards to be nice to the Eastern Orthodox and they in turn disrespect us, the Orthodox clergy espiecially.

A Simple Sinner said...

"So, I would not feel so bad if many Orthodox do not consider you to be a priest, since most Orthodox priests I know would not be considered priests in some parts of Orthodoxy."

Not to speak for Father, and I do get what you are saying... The irony again though is that chances are good the OCA priest falls into "not really a priest" category if he is one of the many ex-Catholic or evangelical converts that dot the OCA landscape. How Athos would handle the oodles and oodles of ex-Latin & "Uniate" priests who were recieved as priests via chrismation and vesting, I will leave you to speculate.

As a Greek Catholic (in the Ruthenian Catholic sense) I can attest first hand that ethnicity DOES play a role in our communities. The variance is that the ethnic seperation does not preclude a uniformity of faith.

(Interestingly, why Joe references a split in the same ethnic group between the "latinized" and the vostochniki is another question altogether. They are still in the same church...)

But if and when ethnicity leads to jurisidictions that offer disparate views on various matters (from the reception of converts to the the question of are "roman orders graceless", one wonders, are you fortunate to be in the right jurisidiction that teaches rightly becaue you and your bishop are cut of the same ethnic cloth?

"I am all for union with Rome, once Rome repents of her false teachings and returns to Holy Orthodoxy.

A right sounding platitude to be sure! Now if you could just point to the ecumenical council the East has convened to rightly condemn these "false teachings..."

And then let's imagine the Pope of Rome does JUST THAT. He gets on a jet, flings himself before the feet of the Patriarchs of Jerusalem, Constantinople and Moscow, begging forgiveness for all eggregious Roman heterodoxy, imploring their pardon and begging reception into Holy Orthodoxy!

One is left to wonder who or how it would be decided to bring the wayward Latins home... I mean, that the pope is even a priest is not accepted in some circles (The head of the Orthodox Church of Sinai refers to him as the "President of the Vatican"!) So even how the Pope could "become Orthodox" (let alone the rest of the flock) is an issue entirely up for grabs.

Dare I suggest that such a fictious papal move could split Orthodxy over the response, and the split would be between national churches...

 
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