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StGeorge
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« on: March 09, 2008, 10:42:44 PM »

Tonight I had an interesting discussion with one of my Roman Catholic friends.  She asked me the reasons why I became Orthodox.  We talked for about an hour.  During the course of this discussion, she basically told me about her views of the Pope: about how there needs to be a visible head of the Church universal, how there needs to be someone who holds everything together, how there needs to be someone who confirms what a Council teaches is true.  In response to all this, I told her that for the Orthodox the local bishop is the visible manifestation of Christ in the Church, and that the Roman Catholic view of the Pope tends to depreciate the work of the Holy Spirit in the operation and confirmation of an Ecumenical Council as true and holy. 

She really stressed the need for the Pope to clear up misconceptions and to be the voice of the Church on disputed matters--and to keep bishops together and in line with one another.  My response to this was that the Orthodox Churches, while certainly not free of their problems, have nonetheless maintained a unity of faith for the past two thousand years--and for the past thousand years even without communion with a bishop claiming to be the head of the Church universal

I told her that rather than clarify teaching, the Pope often begins that which results in more confusion...and that Catholics still need to interpret/reconcile the very different language of previous Popes with the Popes of recent years.  I politely referred to the Roman Catholic Church as suffering from a kind of schizophrenia, based on its drastic change of magisterial language.

To be honest, I'm still a little confused.  Many Roman Catholic positions seem to be reasonable to a great degree, but there is something inside of me that tells me that, however logical and true sounding Roman Catholic arguments may be, there is something wrong.  At times, I can acknowledge with my head that certain Roman Catholic arguments seem logical enough, but deep down, in my heart, I know that what Roman Catholicism teaches is not quite the teaching of the Apostles and the early Church. 

Can some people here perhaps help me better understand how an Orthodox Christian might respond to a Roman Catholic on some of these issues?  I have many Roman Catholic friends, but not all know of my conversion.   
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« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2008, 10:50:37 PM »

Personally for me I sorely wish God could grant infallibility in doctrine to a particular person on Earth but as any human that is put in a superior power of position has the great temptation of corruption regardless of how holy you are because something tells me that the pope has every demon whispering in his ear. I look at E.O structure as creating a checks and balances system which with so many "heads" if one goes astray then all the others can bring it in to line. To sum up it is easier for one to go corrupt then many.
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« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2008, 04:58:28 PM »

"Where two or more are gathered in my name, there is love."

That's generally my way of explaining it. Though I haven't actually gotten in a debate with a Catholic, because most I speak with have never heard of Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2008, 05:40:00 PM »

Thanks for your answers.  Tonight I re-read one of Fr. Schmemann's essays on primacy in the Church.  I think my biggest problem is that I need to stop thinking of the universal Church the same way the Roman Catholic Church does.  I'm still thinking in parts/whole when I need to reposition myself to seeing each church as the full manifestation of Church, and the communion of churches not as summing up to the Church, but instead collectively giving witness to the unity of faith in the Catholic Church that is manifested equally and fully in each.  It's a major shift for me, coming from the Roman Catholic model. 
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« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2008, 07:46:01 PM »

Thanks for your answers.  Tonight I re-read one of Fr. Schmemann's essays on primacy in the Church.  I think my biggest problem is that I need to stop thinking of the universal Church the same way the Roman Catholic Church does.  I'm still thinking in parts/whole when I need to reposition myself to seeing each church as the full manifestation of Church, and the communion of churches not as summing up to the Church, but instead collectively giving witness to the unity of faith in the Catholic Church that is manifested equally and fully in each.  It's a major shift for me, coming from the Roman Catholic model. 

If it helps, think of the Church as a Television broadcast, received on TV sets throughout the world, the broadcast being the Faith and Unity of the Church, each TV set being the local bishop.  Although there are many, they are One.
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« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2008, 10:23:19 PM »

Thanks for your answers.  Tonight I re-read one of Fr. Schmemann's essays on primacy in the Church.  I think my biggest problem is that I need to stop thinking of the universal Church the same way the Roman Catholic Church does.  I'm still thinking in parts/whole when I need to reposition myself to seeing each church as the full manifestation of Church, and the communion of churches not as summing up to the Church, but instead collectively giving witness to the unity of faith in the Catholic Church that is manifested equally and fully in each.  It's a major shift for me, coming from the Roman Catholic model. 

Something that helped me in converting to Orthodoxy from Catholicism was to apply my reasoning as a Roman Catholic regarding the oneness of the Holy Eucharist to the oneness of the local Churches.  Just as it is possible for there to be one Eucharist fully present and received in many different churches and yet remain one, it is possible for there to be one Church fully present and operative in many local Churches and yet remain one.  And just as it would be heretical in either Orthodoxy or Catholicism to affirm that there is one Eucharist that is ontologically greater than other Eucharists, it is heretical in Orthodoxy for one local Church/Bishop to be ontologically greater than the others.  In short, just apply your present understanding of the Holy Eucharist's unity-in-multiplicity to the Church and you've got  Orthodox ecclesiology.  I hope this helps you.  Smiley

God bless,

Adam 
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« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2008, 10:39:46 PM »

She really stressed the need for the Pope to clear up misconceptions and to be the voice of the Church on disputed matters--and to keep bishops together and in line with one another.  My response to this was that the Orthodox Churches, while certainly not free of their problems, have nonetheless maintained a unity of faith for the past two thousand years--and for the past thousand years even without communion with a bishop claiming to be the head of the Church universal .   

Your friend seems to have a rather inflated view of what papal infallibility entails, even by Roman Catholic standards.  In fact, the dogma of papal infallibility only states that when the Pope decides to make a dogma that he will obligate the faithful to a true teaching.  Since dogmas are rarely made by Roman Catholic Popes, the majority of the time that the Pope teaches he would have the possibility of being very fallible and there is no guarantee that he will teach the true Faith.  If Roman Catholics were more aware of the long tradition in both East and West (and still not condemned by Papal Rome) of believing that Popes may fall into heresy and even lose the Papacy, they would be less keen to see in the Pope the final word in doctrine and more apt to agree with our Orthodox method of testing all teachings by the truly infallible criterion of Holy Tradition as received by all the Church, in every place they have been at and at every age.  It is unfortunate that Papal Rome allows the erroneous opinion that Popes can never err in faith and morals (even apart from making dogmas, which itself is unknown to the ancient Church) to be embraced by its flock.  Only Holy Orthodoxy has firmly resisted this error and bears witness to the ancient Faith, in which Popes could still be judged by Holy Tradition and the Church and not accepted as an infallible standard of their own.       

God bless,

Adam 
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« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2008, 12:32:54 AM »

Something that helped me in converting to Orthodoxy from Catholicism was to apply my reasoning as a Roman Catholic regarding the oneness of the Holy Eucharist to the oneness of the local Churches.  Just as it is possible for there to be one Eucharist fully present and received in many different churches and yet remain one, it is possible for there to be one Church fully present and operative in many local Churches and yet remain one.  And just as it would be heretical in either Orthodoxy or Catholicism to affirm that there is one Eucharist that is ontologically greater than other Eucharists, it is heretical in Orthodoxy for one local Church/Bishop to be ontologically greater than the others.  In short, just apply your present understanding of the Holy Eucharist's unity-in-multiplicity to the Church and you've got  Orthodox ecclesiology.  I hope this helps you.  Smiley

God bless,

Adam 
That's a fabulous analogy I've never heard before.....


Yours in Christ
Paisius
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« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2008, 01:53:12 PM »

Something that helped me in converting to Orthodoxy from Catholicism was to apply my reasoning as a Roman Catholic regarding the oneness of the Holy Eucharist to the oneness of the local Churches.  Just as it is possible for there to be one Eucharist fully present and received in many different churches and yet remain one, it is possible for there to be one Church fully present and operative in many local Churches and yet remain one.  And just as it would be heretical in either Orthodoxy or Catholicism to affirm that there is one Eucharist that is ontologically greater than other Eucharists, it is heretical in Orthodoxy for one local Church/Bishop to be ontologically greater than the others.  In short, just apply your present understanding of the Holy Eucharist's unity-in-multiplicity to the Church and you've got  Orthodox ecclesiology.  I hope this helps you.  Smiley

God bless,

Adam 

Post of the Month nominee!

Well done!  Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2008, 08:28:42 AM »

Something that helped me in converting to Orthodoxy from Catholicism was to apply my reasoning as a Roman Catholic regarding the oneness of the Holy Eucharist to the oneness of the local Churches.  Just as it is possible for there to be one Eucharist fully present and received in many different churches and yet remain one, it is possible for there to be one Church fully present and operative in many local Churches and yet remain one.  And just as it would be heretical in either Orthodoxy or Catholicism to affirm that there is one Eucharist that is ontologically greater than other Eucharists, it is heretical in Orthodoxy for one local Church/Bishop to be ontologically greater than the others.  In short, just apply your present understanding of the Holy Eucharist's unity-in-multiplicity to the Church and you've got  Orthodox ecclesiology.  I hope this helps you.  Smiley

God bless,

Adam 

That sounds a lot like the chapter I just read in "Being as Communion" by John Zizioulas.  The extensive footnotes in this book provide numerous citations to the ECF's to back up your point.
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« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2008, 11:44:06 AM »

Thanks for the posts.  The Eucharist analogy is very helpful. 
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« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2008, 06:32:46 PM »

The sad truth is your Roman Catholic friend is romanticizing the Pope's situation.  The Pope writes encyclicals to clarify issues that aren't read by the Archbishops who are supposed to implement them.  That is evident from Archdiocese to Archdiocese and from parish to parish.  In theory, the Pope should be ensuring that every Catholic is receiving the same information and on the same page and the proof is that is just not true.  They have various splits even occuring as early as our generation with the split of the SSPX churches after Vatican II -which had promulgated a do your own thing attitude among the Archbishops.  Worship varies from parish to parish.

In short, the Pope being head of the Roman Catholic Church only works in theory.  The Orthodox Churchs are more uniform in worship and belief so having a council of Bishops seems to work in practicality quite a bit better. 

The proof is in the pudding you tell them.

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« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2008, 06:55:55 PM »

Thanks for your answer angelica.  But I'm confused: your profile says your are [Roman] Catholic...
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« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2008, 09:43:52 PM »

Tonight I had an interesting discussion with one of my Roman Catholic friends.  She asked me the reasons why I became Orthodox.  We talked for about an hour.  During the course of this discussion, she basically told me about her views of the Pope: about how there needs to be a visible head of the Church universal, how there needs to be someone who holds everything together, how there needs to be someone who confirms what a Council teaches is true.  In response to all this, I told her that for the Orthodox the local bishop is the visible manifestation of Christ in the Church, and that the Roman Catholic view of the Pope tends to depreciate the work of the Holy Spirit in the operation and confirmation of an Ecumenical Council as true and holy. 

StGeorge,

I believe that the Pope of Rome has a universal primacy, i.e. he ranks first out of all the bishops in the whole Church. Nevertheless, I do sometimes get annoyed at Catholics presenting him as some kind of panacea.

how there needs to be someone who confirms what a Council teaches is true.

I often hear Catholics say an ecumenical council is any council that has been received as such by the pope. I believe that reception by the pope is a necessary condition for being an ecumenical council; but it is not a sufficient condition, since it also needs to be received by church as a whole.

-Peter.
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« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2008, 11:19:25 PM »

They have various splits even occuring as early as our generation with the split of the SSPX churches after Vatican II -which had promulgated a do your own thing attitude among the Archbishops.  Worship varies from parish to parish.
I don't think that the split of the SSPX Churches was what promoted a do it your own thing attitude in R Catholic Churches. I think that the do it your own thing in R Catholic liturgy was promoted by the flexibility introduced into the RC New Mass after Vatican II. On the contrary, the SSPX is very much opposed to this type of flexibility in celebrating the MAss as it adheres exclusively to the Old Latin Mass.
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« Reply #15 on: March 16, 2008, 02:46:12 PM »



I often hear Catholics say an ecumenical council is any council that has been received as such by the pope. I believe that reception by the pope is a necessary condition for being an ecumenical council; but it is not a sufficient condition, since it also needs to be received by church as a whole.

-Peter.
An interesting statement and forgive my ignorance. Is it even possible for the pope to accept a council and the Church to reject it?


Yours in Christ
Paisius
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« Reply #16 on: March 16, 2008, 02:52:19 PM »

An interesting statement and forgive my ignorance. Is it even possible for the pope to accept a council and the Church to reject it?


Yours in Christ
Paisius

Good point. If a pope accepts a certain council, it wouldn't be possible for the whole church to reject it, since the whole church rejecting it would include the pope rejecting it.

But I oppose the reductionist view of ecumenical councils which equates acceptance by the church with acceptance by the pope.

God bless,
Peter.
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« Reply #17 on: March 16, 2008, 03:38:53 PM »

I think it is complete arrogance of the part of the Roman Catholics, to insist that everybody follow the Pope.  Historically speaking, there have been Popes who have made a number of errors, that cost the lives of many innocent people. And I don't see any difference between those Popes who made such errors and Osama Bin Laden.  All in the name of God, the innocent have been slained, killed, raped and enslaved.  So how is it, they can claim infallibility of any Pope.

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« Reply #18 on: March 16, 2008, 04:29:16 PM »

I think it is complete arrogance of the part of the Roman Catholics, to insist that everybody follow the Pope.  Historically speaking, there have been Popes who have made a number of errors, that cost the lives of many innocent people. And I don't see any difference between those Popes who made such errors and Osama Bin Laden.  All in the name of God, the innocent have been slained, killed, raped and enslaved.  So how is it, they can claim infallibility of any Pope.

It's more than arrogance; it's historical ignorance.  Post-Schism Popes, canonists and theologians carried on the Orthodox understanding that Popes can err, even lose the Papacy and that the faithful can discern this and oppose them.  This understanding still technically exists in the Latin Church, being uncondemned, even if neglected.  However, many Roman Catholics are unaware of this and this causes them to exaggerate the Papacy to the extent that they fail to see that by their own ancient principles, our Orthodox stance of resistance is possible and our dependence on Holy Tradition even when the Pope teaches was once the normative posture of Post-Schism Rome, herself.  This also causes them to mis-interpret quotes from the Holy Fathers about the Roman See not falling into heresy.  They read these quotes as referring to the unerring faith of the Popes, even though Medieval Popes, themselves, seem unaware that they cannot err (they even mention what will happen if they do fall into heresy!).  Much Roman Catholic error regarding the Papacy stems from their ignorance of just how limited their own dogma of papal infallibility is (as you know, this dogma only states that the Pope won't err when he proclaims dogmas, a role he never assumed until 1854).   

God bless,

Adam     
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« Reply #19 on: March 16, 2008, 05:08:18 PM »

Good point. If a pope accepts a certain council, it wouldn't be possible for the whole church to reject it, since the whole church rejecting it would include the pope rejecting it.

But I oppose the reductionist view of ecumenical councils which equates acceptance by the church with acceptance by the pope.

God bless,
Peter.

In light of Catholic theology and ecclesiology one could be forgiven for getting the impression that for Catholics The Church = The Pope. If the Pope accepts it the Church accepts it and if the Pope doesn't the Church doesn't.


Yours in Christ
Paisius
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« Reply #20 on: March 16, 2008, 06:26:11 PM »

Paisius and Paradosis (Adam),

In light of Catholic theology and ecclesiology one could be forgiven for getting the impression that for Catholics The Church = The Pope. If the Pope accepts it the Church accepts it and if the Pope doesn't the Church doesn't.

Strangely enough, I agree with you that the Catholic Church could do more to correct certain Catholics who are, shall we say, overly enthusiastic about the papacy.

Much Roman Catholic error regarding the Papacy stems from their ignorance of just how limited their own dogma of papal infallibility is (as you know, this dogma only states that the Pope won't err when he proclaims dogmas, a role he never assumed until 1854).   

Even more strangely, I would say that your description of papal infallibility is still not sufficiently qualified. Yes, the Vatican I dogma is restricted to the defining of dogmas ("when ... he defines with his supreme apostolic authority that a doctrine on faith and morals is to be held by the whole Church"). But there is yet another qualifier in the Vatican I statement, at least in principle, for it says "when in exercising his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians".

I say "in principle" because in practice that qualifier is usually seen, in most Catholic circles, as a minor or even trivial condition. (Cardinal Newman, for example, wrote "Teaching on the other hand has no sacramental visible signs; it is an opus operantis, and mainly a question of intention." So for Newman, whenever the pope is intending to exercise his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, he is automatically.) Incidentally, this relates to the first post I'm planning to make on my blog. The post, which will be called "About me: an ex- ex cathedrist", is mostly complete but I haven't quite gotten to the point of putting it up yet. (Perhaps having told someone to expect it will give me the needed push to get it done with.)

God bless,
Peter.
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« Reply #21 on: March 16, 2008, 06:43:24 PM »

I say "in principle" because in practice that qualifier is usually seen, in most Catholic circles, as a minor or even trivial condition. (Cardinal Newman, for example, wrote "Teaching on the other hand has no sacramental visible signs; it is an opus operantis, and mainly a question of intention." So for Newman, whenever the pope is intending to exercise his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, he is automatically.) Incidentally, this relates to the first post I'm planning to make on my blog. The post, which will be called "About me: an ex- ex cathedrist", is mostly complete but I haven't quite gotten to the point of putting it up yet. (Perhaps having told someone to expect it will give me the needed push to get it done with.)

That's interesting.  I had always assumed that the requirement of the Pope to teach as the "Shepherd and Teacher of all Christians" was a way to elaborate on the nature of the ex cathedra organ of declaring dogmas.  It's like calling a General Council of the Church, ecumenical.  As you know, "ecumenical" refers to relating to the whole Church just as "shepherd and teacher of all Christians" refers to relating to the whole Church.  I'm interested in reading your thoughts on what this phrase really means.  Be sure to give us the link to your future blog!  Smiley 

God bless,

Adam
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« Reply #22 on: March 16, 2008, 06:54:52 PM »

That sounds a lot like the chapter I just read in "Being as Communion" by John Zizioulas.  The extensive footnotes in this book provide numerous citations to the ECF's to back up your point.

I really like the work of Zizioulas.  Have you read his book, Eucharist, Bishop, Church: The Unity of the Church in the Divine Eucharist and the Bishop During the First Three Centuries?  It's a good introduction to eucharistic ecclesiology and also provides a solid Orthodox interpretation of various quotes from the Fathers, especially those from St. Cyprian of Carthage. 

God bless,

Adam
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« Reply #23 on: March 16, 2008, 08:04:43 PM »

My (Protestant) parents have been telling me that they've heard the current Pope declared that Papal Infallibility and Purgatory are no longer Catholic beliefs. Is this true?
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« Reply #24 on: March 16, 2008, 10:01:10 PM »

My (Protestant) parents have been telling me that they've heard the current Pope declared that Papal Infallibility and Purgatory are no longer Catholic beliefs. Is this true?

In short, no. They are probably thinking of Limbo, a very common theological opinion that never became dogma.

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Paisius
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« Reply #25 on: March 16, 2008, 11:45:12 PM »

It's too late for me to post much more tonight, so I'll just mention that my blog, Merely Catholic, is now up and running. (I'm not sure whether I'm allowed to post the url in a thread, but you can get to it through my profile.)

God bless,
Peter.
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« Reply #26 on: March 17, 2008, 12:19:39 AM »

It's too late for me to post much more tonight, so I'll just mention that my blog, Merely Catholic, is now up and running. (I'm not sure whether I'm allowed to post the url in a thread, but you can get to it through my profile.)

God bless,
Peter.
Forum rules also allow you to place a link to your blog in your signature.
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« Reply #27 on: March 17, 2008, 10:39:33 PM »

That's interesting.  I had always assumed that the requirement of the Pope to teach as the "Shepherd and Teacher of all Christians" was a way to elaborate on the nature of the ex cathedra organ of declaring dogmas.  It's like calling a General Council of the Church, ecumenical.  As you know, "ecumenical" refers to relating to the whole Church just as "shepherd and teacher of all Christians" refers to relating to the whole Church.  I'm interested in reading your thoughts on what this phrase really means.  Be sure to give us the link to your future blog!  Smiley 

I guess we think alike: I see a strong similarity between saying "ex cathedra statements are infallible" and saying "ecumenical councils are infallible".

For one thing, saying they're infallible doesn't answer the question of how many there have been.
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« Reply #28 on: March 17, 2008, 10:54:20 PM »

I'm interested in reading your thoughts on what this phrase really means.

There are two easy answers:

The one that's popular with Catholics (as I've already mentioned) is Newman's idea that the pope basically makes an ex cathedra statement every time he intends to do so.

The one that's popular with Orthodox (if I'm not mistaken) is that there can never be an ex cathedra statement because no single bishop, even the primus inter pares, can ever define a dogma on behalf of the whole church -- hence the question "Are all ex cathedra statements infallible?" just doesn't make any sense (like asking "Are all talking unicorns infallible?").

But there's also a not-so-easy answer: that ex cathedra statements are possible, but that whether or not a particular statement is ex cathedra can only be judged on a case by case basis (like judging whether a council is ecumenical).

I'd love to hear your thoughts, too.
Blessings,
Peter.
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- Peter Jericho (a CAF poster)
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