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Orthodoxy?
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« on: January 10, 2008, 02:47:52 PM »

Hello to all and God Bless!

This is going to be a bit long winded and I apologize in advance.  For about the last year or so I have exhaustively been looking into Catholicism.  Previously I was Southern Baptist.  In my "quest" to find the true Church I came to the conclusion that it could be only the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church.  I went to Divine Liturgy twice at a beautiful Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Birmingham, AL and once at an OCA parish, as well as going to Mass.  I was very much captivated by the Liturgy and am quite disheartened at the current situation of the Liturgy in Catholicism.  Fortunately the Traditional Latin Mass has however been "liberated."  Anyway, I never really felt like I gave Orthodoxy "enough of my time."  I became captivated by the scholastics and really delved into Catholicism.  However I don't think I really gave Orthdoxy a chance.  Catholicism today is seen by many as somewhat contradictory to the Catholicism of old (especially the Society of St. Pius X and the sedevacantists).  You have the whole Vatican II "ordeal" and the whole modernist thing going on since.  I have a few "issues" with both Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

Catholicism - the somewhat "flip-flop" on Limbo.  The allowing for cremation, and including recently the Italian Bishop's Conference allowing the families of those cremated "to spread the ashes," and as already mentioned Vatican II and the modernism.  The contradictory approaches to theology between pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II.

Orthodoxy - the only major things I have "issues" with are the Church's stances on contraception and divorce.  A minor thing being the Papacy.  I think the early Church definitely recognized Rome as the primacy, possibly even more so than just a "Primacy of honor," however I do have some issues with "Papal Infallibility" as I see some contradictions by previous Pontiffs.  Can anybody help me "iron out" some of these issues?

Another major problem however, is that if I was to convert to Orthodoxy.  Currently, I have been in RCIA for almost six months and am only a couple months away from receiving First Communion.  Also, I have gotten my girlfriend interested in Catholicism and she has been in RCIA classes with me and has decided to become Catholic.  Leaving now would basically equate to abandoning her.  This is further problematic because marriage has definitely been talked about.  Also, I have heard the catechumenate period for Orthodoxy is quite long.  This doesn't matter to me, but I am graduating from college in about ten months and will be moving to another state as soon as I graduate. 

I apologize if this is "too much" for one thread, and will seperate these questions into multiple threads if the mods so desire.  I am very much in a "pickle" as I don't feel like I've given Orthodoxy the chance it deserves and lately I have been "riding the fence."  I'm really undecided as to what I should do.  At times I see the Catholic "way of things," but at other times I feel Orthodoxy is calling me.  I'm just really confused.  Can anybody help me out and give me a little advice?
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« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2008, 03:08:56 PM »

Well, if you're still in B-ham, you could talk to Fr. Chris, who's one of the admins for this site and a priest at that church.
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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2008, 03:15:46 PM »

Where is the issue with contraception in orthodoxy?  I'm sorry, I lost you there. 

Also, why not give Catholicism a chance.  You might find it extremely uplifting. 

If you are going to switch to Orthodoxy make sure it's your final switch.  Or at least proceed with that goal in mind.  Hoping around churches is probably not good for your soul or at the very least not good for your relationship. 

You should be able to discuss this with your significant other as well.  Maybe not outright, but field the question to her.  Plus, if she's happy with Catholicism, try to see why.  maybe she sees something you don't, and vice-versa. 

Anyway, in the end, you should definitely talk to an orthodox priest.  They should be able to provide you with a better direction than I can. 
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« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2008, 03:19:07 PM »

  I went to Divine Liturgy twice at a beautiful Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Birmingham, AL

Hey, thanks!  Cheesy

Why don't you give me a call (my office number and office email address are on my parish website, which is easily found through my profile here) and then we can chat!
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« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2008, 03:22:21 PM »

The post-Vatican II theology is the same as the pre. What Pope Benedict has insisted upon is that the words of the Conciliar documents are perfectly in keeping with the unbroken Magisterium of the Church. What happened was that a so called "Spirit of Vatican II" was dreamed up by elements in the Church who indulged in liturgical and other experiments which departed some way from the truths proclaimed and defended at the Council. The Church will come through this period of disorder as it has come through so many others. The Faith of the Catholic Church is the Apostolic Faith and will remain so.

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« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2008, 03:30:28 PM »

The post-Vatican II theology is the same as the pre.

Agreed.

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The Faith of the Catholic Church is the Apostolic Faith and will remain so.

Disagreed.
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« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2008, 03:55:43 PM »

Where is the issue with contraception in orthodoxy?  I'm sorry, I lost you there.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but from what I've gathered, the Orthodox Church once held artificial contraception to be a sin in all cases, and this is its current stance:

"The possible exception to the above affirmation of continuity of teaching is the view of the Orthodox Church on the issue of contraception. Because of the lack of a full understanding of the implications of the biology of reproduction, earlier writers tended to identify abortion with contraception. However, of late a new view has taken hold among Orthodox writers and thinkers on this topic, which permits the use of certain contraceptive practices within marriage for the purpose of spacing children, enhancing the expression of marital love, and protecting health."

from: http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article7101.asp

and:

"Again, however, married people practicing birth control are not necessarily deprived of Holy Communion, if in conscience before God and with the blessing of their spiritual father, they are convinced that their motives are not entirely unworthy. Here again, however, such a couple cannot pretend to justify themselves in the light of the absolute perfection of the Kingdom of God."

from: http://www.oca.org/QA.asp?ID=147&SID=3
 

Quote
Also, why not give Catholicism a chance.  You might find it extremely uplifting.

I agree that it can be very uplifting, at least as it pertains to the Traditional Latin Mass.  The Novus Ordo Mass however... 

However, I'm having second thoughts as I see Doctrinal contradictions with some of Catholicism.  Orthodoxy doesn't seem to have these contradictions and I applaud their unchanging take on Doctrinal and Dogmatic issues.

Quote
If you are going to switch to Orthodoxy make sure it's your final switch.  Or at least proceed with that goal in mind.  Hoping around churches is probably not good for your soul or at the very least not good for your relationship.

This is kind of why I'm in a bind.  I've been Southern Baptist all my life and I want and intend my decision to be forever.  I agree that "church hopping" is bad for the soul.  I'm just having second thoughts about the Catholic Church being the one, true, Church. 

Quote
You should be able to discuss this with your significant other as well.  Maybe not outright, but field the question to her.  Plus, if she's happy with Catholicism, try to see why.  maybe she sees something you don't, and vice-versa.

Will do. 

Quote
Anyway, in the end, you should definitely talk to an orthodox priest.  They should be able to provide you with a better direction than I can. 

Agreed, I think I'll give Fr. Chris a call.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2008, 04:10:18 PM by Orthodoxy? » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2008, 04:07:14 PM »

The post-Vatican II theology is the same as the pre. What Pope Benedict has insisted upon is that the words of the Conciliar documents are perfectly in keeping with the unbroken Magisterium of the Church. What happened was that a so called "Spirit of Vatican II" was dreamed up by elements in the Church who indulged in liturgical and other experiments which departed some way from the truths proclaimed and defended at the Council. The Church will come through this period of disorder as it has come through so many others. The Faith of the Catholic Church is the Apostolic Faith and will remain so.



I've heard all of this before.  I'm just not so sure anymore if that's really the case...
« Last Edit: January 10, 2008, 04:09:27 PM by Orthodoxy? » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2008, 04:14:25 PM »

Hey, thanks!  Cheesy

Why don't you give me a call (my office number and office email address are on my parish website, which is easily found through my profile here) and then we can chat!

Will do Father.  Thanks.
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« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2008, 04:29:08 PM »

Orthodoxy - the only major things I have "issues" with are the Church's stances on contraception and divorce.  A minor thing being the Papacy.  I think the early Church definitely recognized Rome as the primacy, possibly even more so than just a "Primacy of honor," however I do have some issues with "Papal Infallibility" as I see some contradictions by previous Pontiffs.  Can anybody help me "iron out" some of these issues?

Another major problem however, is that if I was to convert to Orthodoxy.  Currently, I have been in RCIA for almost six months and am only a couple months away from receiving First Communion.  Also, I have gotten my girlfriend interested in Catholicism and she has been in RCIA classes with me and has decided to become Catholic.  Leaving now would basically equate to abandoning her.  This is further problematic because marriage has definitely been talked about.  Also, I have heard the catechumenate period for Orthodoxy is quite long.  This doesn't matter to me, but I am graduating from college in about ten months and will be moving to another state as soon as I graduate.
I'll try to help. There are, as you say, several issues here.

1. Contraception: Don't do it. If you do, repent. If you do and you repent and confess it, you can be forgiven. I don't think that's any different from the Catholics. We do allow each priest to talk to married couples, and it is possible to use certain methods of birth control which do not injure the fetus and are not abortive. As the OCA site says, though, this is a concession, not the perfection of the kingdom of God.

2. Divorce: Don't do it. If you do, repent. If you do and you repent and confess it, you can be forgiven. If you cannot then reconcile with your ex-spouse, you may marry again after a waiting period and only with the blessing of a priest--and then, after all that, you still don't get a "real" wedding; it's a wedding of repentance. I don't think there's much here to disagree with. We, as well as the Catholics, agree that divorce is bad for all persons involved and strive to make it as difficult as possible (I would say more difficult than for Catholics, but that's been hashed out way too much on this site).

3. Papacy: We regard the Pope of Rome to be the "first among equals," but not the head of all the Church. He is equal to all four other Patriachs, but retains a special honor. We have always regarded him this way, pre- and post-Schism. The only thing that changed was that the Pope was excommunicated and therefore all subsequent Popes do not have apostolic succession (though they would if the Catholic Church were brought back into communion with the Orthodox). The Catholic position is just the opposite: the Pope excommunicated the Ecumenical Patriarch and therefore all Orthodox do not have apostolic succession (though again we would if the two churches were reconciled). We all pray for unification, that the Church may truly be One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

4. Papal Infallibility: The Pope is not infallible. No one is infallible except God alone. The Holy Spirit guides the Church, and when the Church speaks in an Ecumenical Council, she speaks the truth. Again, most Catholics would agree with this statement, except that they would add that the Pope is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra. At all other times, he is fallible like everyone else.

5. Family Issues: You need to be in agreement with your future wife as to what faith you will follow. If you feel comfortable with Catholicism, then by all means join that church. She is definitely Christian, and that's a good thing in my opinion. I had considered Catholicism before I joined the Orthodox Church, and I regard Catholicism quite highly. We may have some spats with them at times, but any religion that has Jesus Christ as its founder and central focus, IMO, can never be too far from the truth. At the very least, it will point its members to the truth it cannot provide itself.

One other point: In any religion, there will be people who do not follow the faith as fully as they could. Many Orthodox countries have very high divorce and abortion rates. However, this in no way means the Church condones either practice. All of us struggle to live a life as best we can, and all of us fail most of the time. Yet the Church will still be there, desiring us to live as Christ did--for He dwells within us.

Hope that helps.

Lord have mercy on Your servant and his family; impart to him the light of the understanding of Your gospel, and guide him to all truth in Your righteousness, for You are holy now and always and to the endless ages. Amen.
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« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2008, 04:58:32 PM »

Correct me if I'm wrong, but from what I've gathered, the Orthodox Church once held artificial contraception to be a sin in all cases, and this is its current stance:

"The possible exception to the above affirmation of continuity of teaching is the view of the Orthodox Church on the issue of contraception. Because of the lack of a full understanding of the implications of the biology of reproduction, earlier writers tended to identify abortion with contraception. However, of late a new view has taken hold among Orthodox writers and thinkers on this topic, which permits the use of certain contraceptive practices within marriage for the purpose of spacing children, enhancing the expression of marital love, and protecting health."

from: http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article7101.asp

and:

"Again, however, married people practicing birth control are not necessarily deprived of Holy Communion, if in conscience before God and with the blessing of their spiritual father, they are convinced that their motives are not entirely unworthy. Here again, however, such a couple cannot pretend to justify themselves in the light of the absolute perfection of the Kingdom of God."

from: http://www.oca.org/QA.asp?ID=147&SID=3
 


I can't speak for the whole of Orthodoxy, but I will speak from my own experience of Orthodoxy in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Our understanding of contraception comes from our understanding of the theology of marriage.  In other words, what is the purpose of marriage.  Catholic contributors, please correct me if I'm wrong, but the Catholic church holds that marriage is primarily for the purpose of procreation.  Thus, contraception is contrary to the purpose of marriage and sexual intimacy.

In Orthodoxy, however (in my experience, of course), the purposes of marriage are not only for procreation.  Rather:

Quote
A husband and a wife are called by the holy Spirit not only to live together but also to share their Christian life together so that each, with the aid of the other, may grow closer to God and become the persons they are meant to be.

Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald, dean of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
Brookline, Mass
http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article7105.asp

Because the purpose of marriage is NOT only for the bearing of children, sexual intimacy is considered an expression of love between husband and wife.  Thus, as long as the method of contraception used is non-abortive, then contraception is okay, because it is not contrary to our understanding of marriage.

This is the reason that a spiritual father is SOOOOO important.  Some priests will advise a couple to follow the old interpretation.  Some priests will advise the couple that as long as their contraception is non-abortive, it is okay (this is ESPECIALLY true when the reason for contraception, such as the birth control pill, is medical, rather than for the express purpose of contraception).  A couple should have a spiritual father, with whom they are comfortable, who knows them and their circumstances, to guide them in making that decision.  And be it known, once the spiritual father advises you, whether his advice is "correct" or not, is no longer a concern.  The responsibility lies on the priest's shoulders, not the couple's.  So don't go out and find a priest that agrees with your interpretation.  Find a priest who you love and trust, with whom you can regularly confess.  His opinions and interpretations may not always be the same as yours, but that responsibility is his.  The responsibility of a spiritual child is to obey. 

Hope some of this helps you, rather than further confusing you.

Do talk to Fr. Chris, I feel certain he'll be able to help you (especially more than me!!!).

May God bless and guide you and your girlfriend in your journey!
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« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2008, 05:07:56 PM »


3. Papacy: We regard the Pope of Rome to be the "first among equals," but not the head of all the Church. He is equal to all four other Patriachs, but retains a special honor. We have always regarded him this way, pre- and post-Schism. The only thing that changed was that the Pope was excommunicated and therefore all subsequent Popes do not have apostolic succession (though they would if the Catholic Church were brought back into communion with the Orthodox). The Catholic position is just the opposite: the Pope excommunicated the Ecumenical Patriarch and therefore all Orthodox do not have apostolic succession (though again we would if the two churches were reconciled). We all pray for unification, that the Church may truly be One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.the Pope is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra. At all other times, he is fallible like everyone else.


Essentially correct but I would stress past tense as far as "first among equals" goes - that honor is now held by the Ecumenical Patriarch (and awaiting the Pope with the return of an Orthodox papacy).
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« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2008, 05:18:29 PM »

^ True. Since the Schism, the Pope has lost his status in Orthodoxy; however, were the two churches to return to communion, the Pope would also regain his status as "first among equals."
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« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2008, 07:42:20 PM »

Because the purpose of marriage is NOT only for the bearing of children, sexual intimacy is considered an expression of love between husband and wife. 
And Orthodox couples are perfectly free to express this love during both days of the year when it is not forbidden by the fasts...

In all seriousness, I believe that the Catholic Church also sees sexual intimacy as an expression of love between a husband and wife.  The Catholic Church sees the importance of the unitive aspect of sexual intimacy, which is why the Church does not require a married couple to abstain from sex during times when the union is known not to be fertile.  Contraception is viewed not only as an attempt to frustrate procreation, one of the (though not the only) purposes of sexual intercourse, it is also seen as a barrier to intimacy and shows a lack of willingness to fully give of one's self to one's spouse.

When it comes to the whole Catholic-Orthodox choice, I'm on the fence, as well.  I agree with much of what was said in the OP, although, interestingly enough, the views of Catholic traditionalists are part of what pushed me to investigate Orthodoxy.  The Catholic Church as presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church sounds so beautiful and wonderful.  However, then I started reading the claims of traditionalists who seemed upset that unbaptized infants were not automatically assumed to be forever separated from God; that those not within the visible boundaries of the Church might possibly, by the mercy of God, escape eternal torment; and that those who celebrated mass in the vernacular might still please God with their worship.  If what these traditionalists claimed was Catholicism really was Catholicism, then I simply could not accept it.  That being said, I think they're wrong in many of their claims, which is partly why I'm still on the fence.
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« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2008, 12:45:01 AM »


Catholicism - the somewhat "flip-flop" on Limbo.  The allowing for cremation, and including recently the Italian Bishop's Conference allowing the families of those cremated "to spread the ashes," and as already mentioned Vatican II and the modernism.  The contradictory approaches to theology between pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II.
The Roman Church is not perfect, that being said neither is the Orthodox Church nor any Protestant denomination.
One of the things that I had an issue with Catholicism was how much power the pope has (keep in mind that I did not realize this until after I was chrismated).  Looking at Roman Catholic hierarchy, one of the flaws that I realized was the fact that the pope could exercise his power like any of the saints who have helped out the poorest of the poor or become the last absolute monarch in the world.  To me, there is too much of a gap between how good or how evil a pope and his decisions could be.  The amount of power that the pope has in terms of not only practical matters (organization of dioceses) but also theological matters is seen in the different positions that have been held.  Limbo, purgatory, etc.

Quote
Orthodoxy - the only major things I have "issues" with are the Church's stances on contraception and divorce.  A minor thing being the Papacy.  I think the early Church definitely recognized Rome as the primacy, possibly even more so than just a "Primacy of honor," however I do have some issues with "Papal Infallibility" as I see some contradictions by previous Pontiffs.  Can anybody help me "iron out" some of these issues?
Conception and divorce have been covered fairly well so far in this thread.
Orthodox see the pope as the bishop of Rome and head of the Roman Catholic Church.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Before the schism his office was a sort of "older brother" in comparison to the other four patriarchates.  His was not one of absolute authority over all, but was rather seen as really cool.  Remember, Rome was the largest city in the world at the time, which is one of the reasons why it was granted honor.


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« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2008, 06:52:45 AM »

I first want to say that I have really enjoyed reading this
thread.  Everyone has been respectful and summarized their
issues/problems well, without disparaging the other side (which
I sometimes do  Sad)

As one in a similar position of Orthodoxy? (thanks, buddy,
for starting this thread) and the Iambic Pen (greetings as well),
I would like to add a few things that our Orthodox and Catholic
friendly posters are free to comment on:

1) Legalism of Catholicism vs. free will of Orthodoxy.  I guess
the sinning formula of Catholicism is a problem for me.  For example,
Missing church without a good reason is a sin, and not a venial
one.  I think three times cutting church and it becomes a mortal
sin, which needs to be confessed before death for it to be
forgiven.  (Not only Sundays count here but the awfully-named Holy Days of
Obligation.) I mean, really, isn't this a replacement of the old
law with the new?  People fear going to church rather than
wanting to go, as they do in Orthodoxy (and Protestantism).    While I see a
scriptural basis for mortal and venial sins, I prefer the "we don't
know" stance of Orthodoxy rejecting such "forgiveness formulas."

2) Essence and energies - I prefer this Orthodox thinking about
knowing God and salvation to the more legalistic formulas of Catholicism
(and, although they would never admit it, Protestants).   The east
knew Greek and the west didn't, resulting in the west not understanding
the distinction between the essence and energies.  (Augustine didn't
know what the word energy meant).  Generally, Thomas Aquinas
is not at the same level as eastern thinkers.  Too much dependence
on reason, too little on God.

3) Can someone explain to me when the pope speaks ex cathedra?
There doesn't seem to be a clear answer to this.  Although there
appears to be agreement that the Immaculate Conception of Mary
is an ex cathedra statement.

4) On the Catholic side, I have read (in a pro-Catholic book) that
Rome served as an appelate role in the early church.  This would take
the Roman church to a level above being a "first among equals."

5) While Popes have not been perfect, the Orthodox church claims
that their church is perfect.  I think they mean perfect in belief, not
in practice.  It seems to me that in the first 600 years, not all eastern
churches  were perfect in doctrine (belief).  And later churches, especially in
Russia, were not perfect in practice.

For me, the historical and experiencial  evidence (Orthodox services
seem more other-worldly to me) point clearly towards Orthodoxy.
But, like Orthodoxy? and others said, I want this conversion to
be my last.



 
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« Reply #16 on: January 11, 2008, 07:58:02 AM »


4) On the Catholic side, I have read (in a pro-Catholic book) that
Rome served as an appelate role in the early church.  This would take
the Roman church to a level above being a "first among equals."

Rome had an appellate function in the Church up to the schism - said rights and privileges now exercised by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.





 
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