Hello everyone, let me explain my situation.
I was born into a Roman Catholic home, embraced Orthodoxy in my university years and have been attending Greek and Russian churches ever since. I live in a mid-sized Canadian town where there are plenty of Catholic churches around and a few Orthodox churches.
Of the Orthodox churches, none have English services. I was once shooed away from a church by a priest because I asked him before Liturgy if I could take communion. When he realized I wasn’t Serbian (it was a Serbian church), he explained that he doesn’t believe I am Orthodox since I am of Western European descent. I also have corresponded with 2 other priests in my town who have stopped responding to my e-mails (not that I e-mail them a lot) because I simply ask too many questions.
I have had these negative experiences in the Orthodox Church but now find myself faced with my biggest dilemma. I find myself not tolerating standing through services in languages other than my own anymore and feeling like a second class citizen in Orthodoxy. You have great theologians like Kallistos Ware who were pushed away from Orthodoxy by an Orthodox priest when he was younger some 50 years ago and stuff like this is still going on. I feel drawn to Orthodoxy by its sound theology, beautiful churches and services but pushed away by terrible priests and not a church offering services in the English language.
I have begun attending Catholic services and now see myself torn between these two faiths. I feel that if I had ONE good parish with English services I’d be satisfied. The only solutions are to leave my town (which I will not do), to be in a perpetual state of being in an unsatisfying Orthodoxy, or to revert to Catholicism where I can enjoy services in English.
This issue is bothering me so much that I am even making concessions for the fact that I understand the authority of the Pope of Rome in the Orthodox way, but will close my eyes to the differences between the Churches in order to be satisfied on Sunday. Practicality over theory I guess.
Besides this, I am starting to see the Pope as a source of unity not seen in the Orthodox churches. Yes, the Orthodox are united in faith, as are the Roman Catholics, but the Catholics also have a superior Church structure that leaves a believer with a clear understanding of what is right and wrong and who is in schism or not. An example of this is when ROCOR was in communion with the Greek Old Calendarists (generally considered schismatics) AND the Serbians (a church in communion with the rest of the Orthodox world) while the rest of the canonical jurisdictions were not in communion with the Greek Old Calendarists. One never knows where communion stands in Orthodoxy because communions and allegiances seem to be constantly changing as opposed to Catholicism where one voice speaks for the whole Church.
Orthodoxy is what made me fall in love with Christianity again, but now it’s giving me so many problems, I feel like joining the Catholic faithful again just to be at peace.
Greetings! My name is Paul. I was raised in an evangelical charismatic home, and through the grace of God, I was converted to the Catholic Faith, and I am now a member of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith, and I have attached myself to the Roman Church in submission to her bishop, His Holiness Benedict XVI.
However, in the course of this, I did have to choose between the East and the West. I have a dear friend, one of my closest Christian brothers, who this past year, he and his lovely wife converted to Orthodoxy, and are now in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. He was the first to teach me to make the sign of the Cross, to explain to me the glory of the Incarnation and necessity of the eternality and deity of Christ while I struggled with many heresies and untruths. However, he and I, in our searching, chose the two different Churches because, well, we'd been introduced to ancient Christianity through members of the respective Churches we ended up in.
Hence, I am familiar with the struggles between the two.
I will say this, though, neither of us chose the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church because of how its members behaved. I always tell people, "The veracity of a particular religious doctrine is independent of the behavior of its adherents." Even if Muslims do not give to the poor, worship faithfully, behave chastely, or act in many other ungodly ways, this in no way reveals that Islam is a false religion. Now, Our Blessed Lord did say that "by their fruits ye shall know them". If a man comes preaching a gospel of repentance, but embraces sin in his own life, it does not change the fact that the message of repentance is a true and worthy message. The fruits of following the Catholic Faith which comes to us from the Apostles are universally wholesome, if the faith is followed as it should be. The Orthodox Faith is likewise true. In fact, many religions contain elements of the truth which will bring the same promised fruits that each true element - but not the fruit of salvation. Salvation only resides within the Catholic Church. However, simply because some in the Catholic Church have abused little children and incurred a great curse from God upon themselves does not mean that the faith is wrong.
Likewise, I strongly exhort you not to abandon your Orthodox faith because an Orthodox priest was dismissive because you were of the wrong ethnicity. Furthermore, even though an English language liturgy may appeal to you more, the English language is not worth abandoning the true faith. As a Roman Catholic, the liturgical abuses are incredibly heart breaking. Whenever I go to Divine Liturgy with my Greek Orthodox friend, it warms my heart to see such reverence towards God and such a beautiful liturgy. My parish is one of the best of all Roman parishes I have been to, but there could still be improvements. The Roman Rite of the Church is broken in too many ways to describe right now. Hence, if I were to make the choice of Church based on liturgical reasons alone, I would be Orthodox right now, or possibly High Church Anglican if there were a good parish in my area.
While these reasons may influence which parish you attend, it should not affect which doctrines you officially hold to be true.
I would like you to read this excerpt from C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity
I hope no reader will suppose that "mere" Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions-as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think, preferable.
It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at. I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait. When you do get into your room you will find that the long wait has done you some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping.
You must keep on praying for light: and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house. And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and paneling.
In plain language, the question should never be: "Do I like that kind of service?" but "Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper?"
When you have reached your own room, be kind to those Who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.
If you join a Catholic parish simply because you prefer the language of the liturgy and the fellowship, then your Catholic Faith will be built on shifting sand. I do not wish this upon you. Believe me, I will not lie and say that I do not wish you to revert to the Catholic Faith. I will pray that God will lead you towards the truth. If you are return to the Catholic Church, then I would have it for the reason that I converted to the Catholic Faith, and proclaimed the day of my Chrismation:
"I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church teaches, believes and proclaims to be revealed by God."
I took that sacred oath because I believe it, heart and soul. Unless you achieve the same conviction, then conversion of any kind is a poor idea.
Of course, I am not allowed to proselytize, and neither would I, for this is not the purpose of this forum, but if you have questions that I am able to answer, then I will.
In addition, I would like to say this. The Catholic Faith has changed me to be more like Christ. I have many friends for whom the Orthodox Faith has done the same thing. I have friends who were on their way to Hell while outwardly embracing the Catholic Faith but now show forth fruits of salvation in priestless churches. While I do not condone anyone leaving the Catholic Faith, for some people, they have missed the truth of Christ within it, but through the grace of God, he has opened another route for them to come to him. Whether this will result in their ultimate salvation I cannot be sure, but the fruits are there. Likewise, if being Orthodox is not leading you towards a holier and more perfect communion with the creator, then you must reassess, as you are doing now. However, above all, seek the truth.
I will pray for you brother. May God give you peace and always lead you to the truth.