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Thursday, November 11, 2004

Catholicism vs. Orthodoxy

There's a discussion going on over at Pontifications regarding the relative merits of Catholicism and Orthodoxy. The good Fr. Kimel, host of Pontifications, has finally (after many clear hints) delivered himself definitively of the view that lay Episcopalians should get out without further ado ("Fly, you fools!"). To help us make up our minds where to go, he's invited two ex-Episcopalians, one currently an Orthodox priest and the other a Catholic priest, to explain their respective choices. The Orthodox priest. Fr. Freeman, wrote a wise and eloquent account of how he came to Orthodoxy. The Catholic, Fr. Hart, shocked everyone by announcing that he wasn't really that thrilled with Catholicism but it was the "default." It is in continuity with the early Church, and papal primacy allows Catholicism to adapt itself to various cultures while retaining its integrity.

Now perhaps it's a measure of just how jaded I've become that all of this seemed quite sensible to me--indeed I found Fr. Hart's candor refreshing. Too many people choose Catholicism or Orthodoxy as one takes up a hobby, because it's exciting and enjoyable. If the claims of either of these Churches are true, then whichever of them is true is not a hobby but a home, not a mistress but a mother. If the Catholic Church is the true Church, then it is the sinful, wandering people of God (yes, thank you Vatican II). I love Orthodoxy, but at times there seems something a bit docetistic about it. Yes, the Liturgy should be heaven on earth--at least it should be a glimpse of heaven. But there is also a "not yet." Catholicism has messed up far more spectacularly than Orthodoxy, but some of its failures have come precisely from its attempt to be the People of God rather than simply a dispenser of sacramental grace (I'm thinking of the Gregorian Reforms, for instance).


the Cogitator said...

Hi, Edwin. Thanks for your comment over at my FCA blog. I really appreciate this post of yours. Not sure why. It's charmingly frank and unassuming. I'm also of one mind (I think) on how paradoxically reassuring the scars and skids of RC are. The RCC looks more like the Lord, the Suffering Servant, I serve: crucified but still holy, all too human and yet fully divine, dead and dying in all appearances and yet full of indestructible life. (Not to say the sufferings of the Orthodox in history don't recall the same images...)

Two extras:

1) You might want to consider adding Haloscan (or some other comment system) to your blog, since Blogger's normal method is tedious.

2) What does Ithilien mean? A Tolkienism?

the Cogitator said...

Oops, nevermind about the meaning of Ithilien. Silly me.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone's got their "docetistic" tendencies, it's just a matter of perspective.

One of the main criticisms that Catholics aim at Orthodoxy is its heavy ethnocentrism, and yet this strikes me as a very incarnational quality. In fact, it is this nature of Orthodoxy that struck me as being a commonality with Anglicanism, this interest in making the Church something of the here and now in addition to being an eschatological reality. In fact, one could, from this perspective, see the universalism attempted by the papal system as somehow diminishing an ecclesial bodies ability to represent a fully incarnational community, one that instantiated the Church within a particular culture.

I don't wish to argue this, but mention it only to demonstrate how such evaluations are perspectival


Anonymous said...


I agree that one could define these things differently. Perhaps my post on Christ the King (which I just wrote) sheds some light on my views, or perhaps it doesn't. My problem with the Orthodox view is that the Church incarnates itself by identifying itself totally with a Christianized society. It seems to me that the Church must always remain a fundamentally different kind of society, and that even a Christian nation cannot simply take over the external, incarnational aspects of the Church.

I agree that Orthodoxy and Anglicanism do have some strong similarities in this respect. And that is the single biggest reason _not_ to be Orthodox!

Contarini said...

Sorry--I accidentally posted as Anonymous instead of myself. The preceding comment was me--Edwin/Contarini.

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