Originally posted by sin_vladimirov:
“I can see how your opinion could be influenced by what happened in RCC last 5-10 years.
[ . . . ]
I, personally, (as I have not been exposed to this crime) would not have problems being a Roman Catholic even with all the dramas around what went on, if I believed that RCC is the Church.
For me, it is not the actions of the people who lead the Church who are doing (teaching, performing, acting...) in wrong manner, but the teaching of the Church as whole. I believe that a principle of Catholicity is one of the main prerogatives of the Church, as well as her being One and Apostolic.
[ . . . ]
Why am I saying this. If tomorrow, it becomes obvious that many Orthodox Bishops and Priest were doing evil and demonic things such as done by RCC leaders, I will be shaken, disappointed, but I would (and many others I believe) think of that as a "bad day in office", and we would pray to God to give us Bishops that are AXIOS (worthy). Because as a whole, Orthodox Church is the Church. We have not changed anything of matters of Doctrine from our Lord onwards, up until today (and God forbid that we change anything from now onwards). Actions of people in the Church are not the Church.
If every single orthodox fell away and became atheist, including all the clergy, and there was a single 12 yo girl from Sharamatzovosovoy in Russia who is truly an Orthodox, that girl is THE CHURCH.
I am Orthodox not because our clergy are all PhD's and speak like St. Chrysostom and care about people like St. Almsgiver... no! I am an Orthodox because we are THE ONE CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH.
I am not sure if you will get what I mean.”
Yes, I do get what you mean.
I used to believe that the Catholic Church was just fine, even if some of its members were evil, because it is “the one true church.” I don’t believe that any more because it doesn’t correspond to reality.
Yes, there are many good Catholics (and Protestants). The Roman Catholic Church has many good priests, many good laypeople, most of my family and many of my friends. It is the first place I learned about Jesus and the first place I received the Eucharist. I love much about the Catholic Church and many of the people who compose it.
Nevertheless, there is a history of serious problems in the Catholic Church. The current pedophilia scandal is just the latest problem. Five hundred years ago, the Protestant Reformation happened, in large measure, in response to centuries of institutional corruption in the Catholic hierarchy. Three hundred years before that, the Catholic Church sanctioned the Fourth Crusade of 1204 and the sundering of the Byzantine Empire About the same time (the 1200s), the Catholic hierarchy began the Inquisition. Etc.
Our Catholic leaders tell us: “Don’t be too upset about the current pedophile scandal; the Church has endured evils before, and it will endure this as well.” I say: Endured? Produced is the more accurate word. Those evils were mot foisted upon us; we Catholics generated those evils.
Something is wrong with the Roman Catholic Church. When I look at what is going on now, and when I look at what has happened in the past, I must conclude there is something fundamentally wrong with the Catholic Church. It is NOT just individual people choosing to be sinful. There must be something seriously and fundamentally wrong with the Roman Catholic Church if it repeatedly produces depravity of the scope and magnitude that I described, over centuries.
The test has been run and the data is in. For the first 1000 years, when Western Christianity was basically Orthodox, Western Christianity ran basically well. However, for the last 1000 years (since, roughly, the West gave up being Orthodoxy), the Catholic Church has produced a lot of goodness but also a lot of badness. In the last 1000 years, the West has produced the crusades, the inquisition, persecution, corruption and, most recently, priests who seduce and rape small boys and bishops who cover it up. Oh, and it also managed to be so corrupt that HALF of its members rebelled and started their own churches, the Protestants. Sadly, they did so by giving up most of the sacraments and tradition. Yes, during the last 500 years, the Catholic Church has succeeded in converting Latin America and parts of Asia to the Gospel. However, especially in Latin America, the evangelical and Pentecostal Protestants seem to be making significant inroads. Etc. The unavoidable conclusion is that Roman Catholicism has produced stunning successes in the last 1000 years, but it has also produced stunning failures and evils in the last 1000 years; and those failures and evils are so fundamental in nature as to belie the very structural and theoretical and theological basis of that Church.
What happened? Why was Western Christianity doing reasonably well during its first millennium and then failing so much and so often during its second millennium? How did Western Christendom go from holiness to crusades, protestants, pedophiles and kumbaya?
The West stopped being Orthodox. That is the only conclusion that I have been able to draw. The failures and evils of Western Christianity are not solely the result of people making evil choices. They represent and are symptoms of a fundamental loss of the fullness of the faith. Hence, perhaps we Catholics don’t have bad individuals in a fundamentally good form of Christianity. Perhaps we Catholics have a fundamentally flawed or bad form of Christianity.
Hence, I am interested in becoming Orthodox. This not just a curiosity born from studying history. My Church produced priests that could seduce and rape small boys. My Church produced bishops that could cover it up. My Church has, simultaneously, increasing talk of being loving but scandals like these and insipid liturgy and overly intellectual theology and bishops who close viable parishes and so on. My church --the one I am living in today-- is a mess. And so, I have asked myself: Is there a better way to be a Christian? Is there a better way than being Roman Catholic? Is there a way that has scripture and sacraments and tradition? The answer that I have found seems to be: Yes. there is the Orthodox Church.
Allow me to be plain about why I am interested in perhaps converting to the Orthodox Church. I am fed up with being a Catholic. I like more about Orthodoxy than I dislike about it.
1. I’m fed up with being Catholic.
A big part of that is my DISGUST over the priest abuse scandal.
Another big part of that is forgetting theosis. In the Catholic Church, there is the watered down liturgy, the watered down praxis, the lack of insisting on personal asceticism, and, overall, forgetting that the goal of the Gospel is theosis. I am fed up with the Catholic Church either becoming the latest denomination of liberal Protestantism or trying to go back to the 1950s (if not the 1200s). Either way, liberal or conservative, there is emphasis on the externals; there is not emphasis on interior transformation: metanoia and theosis.
Another big part of my dissatisfaction is feeling like an alien in my own church. When I go to Mass, it is liturgically such a **step down** and, frankly, it just seems so **odd** anymore -- compared to my experience with Orthodox Divine Liturgy. The latter feels like genuine and accurate worship; the former does not.
2. I like more about Orthodoxy than I dislike about it.
What I dislike about Orthodox I already listed in a previous post: Over-Attachment to Ethnicity, Anti-Semitism, Bickering over the Calendar and Phariseeism.
Here is what I like about Orthodoxy:
2.A The Orthodox remember the Holy Spirit. The Orthodox did not accept the filioque; hence they remembered the independence and unique nature of the Holy Spirit. Hence too, they remembered the unique role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church, namely . . .
2.B The Orthodox remember theosis. The point of the Gospel is not just to be “saved.” The point of the Gospel is to become holy. For years, I had wondered “what next?” after repentance. In other words, what is the point, what is the purpose of the time between conversion and going to heaven? What are we supposed to be doing? The Protestants often don’t have answer; and they often resort to re-creating the conversion experience through “revivals” and so on. The Catholic Church offers vague talk about growing in our love for God and neighbor, but it offers little more than externals: external piety (for conservatives) or external works of mercy (for liberals). It is the Orthodox who actually have the answer: theosis. The point of life is to become holy. Christ came to bridge the three-fold gap between God and Man since Adam’s sin: nature, sin and death. Christ bridged the gap of nature by His Incarnation. He bridged the gap of sin by His suffering and death on the Cross. He bridged the gap of death by His Resurrection. That is salvation. But, it didn’t end there. The Gospel continued. The Holy Spirit had sent Christ in His Incarnation. Now, Christ breathed the Holy Spirit on the Apostles; and Christ ascended into Heaven and the Holy Spirit descended. As Bishop Ware observed, the point of Christ’s Incarnation was Pentecost, and the point of Pentecost is to enable us to more fully participate in Christ’s Incarnation. We are not just to be saved. We are saved by Christ in order to be made Holy by the Holy Spirit; and we are made Holy by the Holy Spirit so as to be ever more united to Christ; and thereby we are raised from the level of man to the level of God: to share / partake/ commune with the life of the Trinity. Folks, I never KNEW that stuff till I started reading about Orthodoxy. Theosis was so mind-boggling to me. It is the answer to the question that I yearned to ask but which I did not know how to ask. Looking at Catholicism, it is there too: but dimly, in the lore of certain saints or the lives of humble souls, but it is not often stated and it understood even less. In contrast, the Orthodox Church **starts** with theosis as the WHOLE POINT of the Gospel. In silence and in stillness, Orthodoxy says that there is one essential thing: direct, conscious, living union with God. That is theosis, and Orthodoxy remembers it and starts with it. Then, Orthodoxy concentrates on **how** to practice and achieve theosis. That, in turn made me eager to know more, namely . . .
2.C The Orthodox preserve the means of theosis. Theosis is a three step process, with the steps often happening simultaneously: (1) exterior righteousness, (2) interior purity and (3) selfless love. Or, to put it another way theosis is (1) keeping the commandments, (2) rooting our vices and acquiring the virtues and (3) living the Eucharist in the fullness of our lives. The Catholics don’t teach that; of, if they do, it is muddled and often lost amidst the external piety of the conservatives, the external works or mercy of the liberals, and the boredom or ignorance of the folks in the middle. The Orthodox, however, seem to remember the process of theosis VERY clearly; and, they seem to keep their focus upon it. Hence, the Orthodox actually practice prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Hence, the Orthodox have conserved a liturgy which actually makes sense and which can be highly effective at raising people’s hearts to God. Hence, the Orthodox have preserved a way of life where all of life can be made sacred. That is probably because . . .
2.D Orthodoxy is apophatic, not cataphatic. From what I can tell the main men for setting the tone of Western Christianity are Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther. In Orthodoxy, the main men seem who set the tone seem to be Dionysius the Aereopagite, John Chrysostom, and Gregory Palamas. The West tries to label and describe and understand everything about God. For the West, theology is a matter intellectual endeavor about God. The East tries to unknow in order to know, to participate, and to be still in the Light and Life of God. For the East, theology is a matter of direct, personal experience of God. In fact, the difference between West and East can be summarized like this: Western religion is about God, Eastern religion is of God. The West is cataphatic because it tries to know God in our terms. The East is apophatic because it recognizes that God is totally beyond our minds, words and understanding; and so it tries to set aside all that and to instead to accept God on His terms. Both systems can produce holiness. However, it the apophatic system that seems to be both more accurate and more effective -- precisely because it seems to better allow God to be God. The Gospel is ultimately a Mystery which we are invited to partake of: starting now and growing now, and foretasting forever. The East seems to understand that better, and it seems to live that better, than the West. Hence . . .
2.E Orthodoxy has more intellectual freedom than the Western forms of Christianity. In Western Christianity, theology *is* intellectual. Hence, if a person’s ideas about God are wrong, the person’s salvation is wrong. In Orthodoxy, theology is direct, personal experience of God. Ideas are nice, but only a bare minimum (as expressed by the 7 ecumenical councils and the Tradition) are necessary. People are free in Orthodoxy to speculate and to wonder and so on because intellectual endeavor is not the basis of salvation in Orthodoxy. Christ’s grace is the basis of salvation in Orthodoxy. As a result . . .
2.F Orthodoxy has more collegiality than Western Christianity. There is a willingness to agree to disagree after accepting the 7 ecumenical councils and the Tradition. There seems to be tolerance among the Orthodox jurisdictions, and no one patriarch is head of the whole Church. Instead, Christ is the head of the whole Church and the Holy Spirit is the life and light of the whole Church. Orthodoxy seems to be more organic than Western Christianity because it seems to be less structured, less legalistic and less defined than Western Christianity, because it seems to be more spiritual. And thus . . .
2.G Orthodoxy does the little things right. Orthodoxy understands, like the West used to understand, that most of life is composed of the little things; and (thus) the little things of life shape and embody much of the rest of life. So, for example, Orthodox priests actually dress as priests: instead of wearing clothes that laymen wear. Orthodox worship is actually reverent and unchanging -- because the Living Truth it points to, Jesus Christ, is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. Orthodoxy gives a standard for people to live by, without spelling out every single detail, and expects people to live that standard. There is plenty of compassion; there is economia; but there is also that standard: and it is hard, and it is every day, but it is effective, because it transforms every day and all of the person into a more Christ-like person. Theosis isn’t an impossible goal or a myth for Sundays and holidays or an unfortunate holdover form a medieval past. Theosis is the point and the practice of every day in Orthodoxy.
Now, all of that looks REALLY GOOD to me. It makes me want to join up. However, I am painfully aware that there is no perfect Church. I also realize that what I just wrote about is the very best of Orthodoxy. Hence, I’m trying to learn --offline as well as online-- what orthodoxy is **really** like.
Do the Orthodox really try to practice theosis?
If yes, I want to join.
If not, if most Orthodox are just going through the motions, dimly or half-consciously, I’ll stay in my own religion and practice theosis on my own.