Actually, to most Orthodox and traditionalist Catholics, much of what passes for ecumenical dialogue today is indeed an attempt to whitewash our differences.
What you say may be true, but I am not referring to ecumenical dialogue, I am speaking about institutionalised theology that limits the ability of the Holy Spirit to bring all men to a knowledge of God, it upholds its version of the Letter of the Law alright, and expects that on that day it will receive a round of applause from the Heavenly court for every time it set things straight, even when it did violence to innocent souls of a different understanding, sending them away from religion and institution alike.
This plague is in every church - Pentacostal, Assemblies of God,
Non-Denominational, this is not about Orthodoxy or Catholicism, its about institutions that brutalize tender souls.
When a baby is just beginning to walk, and heading to the nearest coffee table for stability, you encourage what is good and praise him. You don't expect him to stand up and walk confidently into the middle of an empty room.
I have observed that some of you on this forum are so set in your religious perspective that you cannot recognize the influence of the Holy Spirit on a soul when they are very tender and ignorant, or struggling within themselves to understand the plethora of religious doctrines they have encountered in their spiritual journey.
Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit. He alone knows the true interior of souls and what path they must walk to reach the truth. You would like to show them right away. God, a tender Father, sees that their hearts are not as yet ready for this, and so He waits and brings them around according to the level of their cooperation. Along comes a strong, convincing personality, with sharp criticisms about a direction they were moving in. They are confused, shamed and withdraw.
There are former protestants on this forum that know exactly what I'm talking about. And I myself had to go through many metamorphosis's to come to this understanding.
Now, what makes you qualified to know the working of the Holy Spirit where the Orthodox Church somehow does not?
God forgive you brother, I am an ordained Deaconess married to a Bishop. I did not see fit to put myself in this position, knowing fully my unworthiness, it was given me by God. But I must add, that every one of us, no matter what their position in the Church, have the solemn obligation to cultivate an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit, and understand exactly what He is doing in their church. And I never said that the Orthodox Church somehow does not, the true Orthodox Church knows exactly what He is up to.
St. Seraphim himself said, that the goal of the Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. If you are not passionately persuing this
goal, you might want to step back and take another look at your direction.
Yes, I agree that this is true. Pharisaism is a very common temptation, and, sadly, I have seen much of it in the Protestantism I left and the Orthodoxy I joined. I've even succumbed to this temptation at times.
Let us pray for one another is this regard.
Many outside of the Orthodox Church will be saved, and many within the Orthodox Church will be condemned.
And the Lord does not leave us in the dark about how He will separate the sheep from the goats. Let us strive to do good while there is still time.
The one contention with which I disagree, though, is your apparent contention that all polemic debate of theologically divisive issues is automatically uncharitable straining after gnats. We Orthodox believe--and I'm sure that many traditionalist Catholics believe the same--that one of the most charitable things we can do in dialog with the other side is to preach that our Church is the One Church that Christ established for our salvation and that it is necessary for our salvation to abandon our heresies and be reunited with this One true Church of Christ. (Your belief that the Church is some mystical body that includes in some invisible way the faithful of the RC Church together with the faithful of the Orthodox Church is consistent with neither traditional Catholic nor Orthodox understanding of the Church.)
You are in error about the Mystical Body of Christ. Consider that the standard for confessing Christ and being a Christian is the Nicene Creed, and Baptism. But even beyond that, "Who has known the Mind of God that he may counsel Him?" The Ethiopian Eunuch had a heart disposed to receive the truth, was he a Christian before God, before or after Baptism?
It is certainly a tragedy that they are missing the other empowering Sacraments and profound truths of our faith, but that does not make them eligible for a brow beating or exclusion. All who are Christian confess these truths. Do we want to be in the same camp of those who lay up heavy burdens on the backs of Believers
and refuse to lift a finger to help them?
We will not bring fellow Christians to the truth by these methods which are contrary to the ways of the Holy Spirit. The far less glorious way, the harder way, and the most effective way, is through prayer and fasting, that Almighty God may grant them the grace of conversion. It must come from conviction, from the inside out.
In the meantime, there is a concern here for a "love of debate." It can become a lustful and worldly preoccupation leading us away from "love of God and neighbor."
We each preached to each other the truth of our churches and sometimes fell to the temptation to argue with each other, but we each respected what truth we saw in the other's tradition.) This is the interfaith dialog that I call true ecumenism.
I would agree that your dialogue with your brother was true ecumenism. But what fruit did it produce? Did he convert? And after these sessions, did you feel humble and little, or justified and self righteous? Did your example cause him to love Christ and neighbor with greater zeal? Or love the rush of a good debate. What was the fruit?
To quote St. Seraphim, "Teaching is like throwing stones down from the bellfry. Whereas living it is like carrying the stones up to the bellfry."