Thursday, July 06, 2017

An Ecumenical Problem



I get increasingly shocked by news which comes from Rome, some of the more assiduous followers of such news seem to have their faith severely damaged whilst others deepen the faith but seem to be less committed the institution of the Church,

One of my former parishioners and an American who is an occasional correspondent fall into this category, both are thinking very seriously of joining the Orthodox church, I know three of four others who have followed the same route in the past.

Both had been satisfied that being 'Catholic' meant being in communion with Pope but over the last few years especially both have been thinking more deeply. In Orthodox literature and websites they have come across the more ancient definition of 'Catholic' by St Vincent of Lerins, the fifth century western theologian who said, 'Quod Ubique, Quod Semper, Quod ab Omnibus' being Catholic one needs to believe that which is believed everywhere, always and by all.

For one of them Amoris Laetitia, with the interpretation which the Pope seems to put on it, with the footnote which he had apparently forgotten has been the last straw and has led him  to question other things about the Catholic Church's claim to be catholic.

For both the changes in the post Vatican II liturgy, for one primarily the changes in the ancient lectionary, he claims the new one gives a very different picture of Christ than does old lectionary, or the Orthodox lectionary or even the lectionary of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

For the other it is loss of fasting and other ascetical practices, he says that in the Catholic Church we have mitigated almost out of existence a tradition that goes back to Jesus and the Apostles, or at least to the ancient Councils. For both the post Concilliar attitude to religious liberty and to the other monotheistic faiths is a serious break with the Tradition. A major stumbling block for one is the change introduced by S Pius X in the order of the Sacraments (allowing Communion before Confirmation/Chrismation). Though he believe in them, for one has serious problems, though he believes in them in our Western way, with the papal definitions of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption.

In this Ecumenical Age I am not sure how to offer convincing arguments I might once have put forward especially as some of our leading Prelates see no distinction between the Catholic faith and any other.

25 comments:

Pelerin said...

It is good to have you blogging again Father and you certainly give us food for thought. I am not sure whether your title meant to bring to mind 'Father Ted' but having watched a re-run recently when 'Father Jack' is taught to reply 'That would be an ecumenical problem' at least that bit made me smile.

However the uncertainty you point out today remains a serious worry for us all. Our leadership do not help in this respect.

It is not just in Britain either. In France the Catholic newspaper 'La Croix' is being criticised on the French Catholic blogosphere for its coverage following the death of politician Simone Veil who was responsible for bringing in the abortion law in France. Under the headline 'Simone Veil - autorite morale' it states that 'elle merite l'hommage de la nation - de toute la nation.' I despair.

philipjohnson said...

Fr.Do not be dismayed,or put,off holy Mother Church because a bunch of Arch-Modernists are ensconced in the Vatican.We have had fifty years of Heretical uttering ,and banal Liturgy, and poor preaching resulting in a collapse of Faith generally.I am optimistic however and see The One True Church arising out of the rubble of the Conciliar Church.Tradition Fr .Tradition.If we stick to our Faith in The Mystical body of Christ we will win out and see an end to the current Apostasy in Rome.Bergoglio is heading straight into a wall and nothing.barring his conversion ,is going to stop him!Tough talking but ,alas ,true.God bless.I hope that you are in good health.,

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Has anyone considered Pope Michael?

August said...

Yes. I probably should be Orthodox by now. It's just that being lapsed is so much more convenient, and conducive to my general preference for being alone. So I console myself in that, although they managed to keep a decent liturgy, and have doctrine that makes more sense, they are still plagued by the modern ill of bureaucracy.

But we all are plagued by bureaucracy.

Unknown said...

Um. Joining the Orthodox Church for peace of mind? Surely, the relations between the 12 or 15 Orthodox churches are about as harmonious as a sackful of ferrets. I seem to remember that after nearly 40 years of loin-girding and ground-laying, the recent pan-Orthodox jamboree more or less fizzled out.

Join the Orthodox for sacramental tradition? I thought that (some of them) administer all three sacraments (baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist) to neonates. That might be fine, but it is very different.

Stay where you are, pay the closest attention to Our Lady of Fatima and what she actually asked you to do (not some mysterious secret or other). And strengthen your brethren by the example of your life. That will do the trick; and save your soul in the process.

Tony McGough

Osusanna said...

I'm very thankful for my Byzantine church.
I want to dwell in the shelter of the Most High, in the shadow of His wings, that's the most important thing for me.
Stay well Father,
A Pewsitter

Nicolas Bellord said...

Pelerin: There have always been similar problems; we need to stick with it and fight for the Truth.

As for the French newspaper "La Croix" just remember that a century and more when assuring its readers that it had no Jews on its staff it boasted that it was the most anti-Jew daily in France. It took nearly a century to apologise.

Anil Wang said...

Here's a simple apologetic who had to make the choice.

Look at the history of the Church. It's gone through some rough phases several times and has bounced back stronger than before. The current crisis is no different and will be resolved even if you don't live long enough to see the end. You simply need faith and find a good traditional parish or even to go to an Oriental Catholic parish which is more shielded from the follies of Rome.

As for the Orthodox, there are two things to consider. The first is that there is no principled way to affirm that Orthodoxy is correct in rejecting the Council of Florence (which affirms Catholicism) but reject either the Robber Council of Ephesus or the First Council of Constantinople. Both sides claim faithfulness to Tradition so that has to be ruled out. Popular acceptance of the council? In that case the Arians were right. Sola scriptura on the writings on the Fathers and the Bible? Both sides claim this too. The only principled way for the Orthodox to claim they are right is Papal affirmation of the council, but in that case they have to accept the Council of Florence which affirms Catholicism.

The second point is that the Orthodox Church is not immune the current crisis. It's just a bit more shielded because the Eastern Block has been more shielded from the western influence. But the growing scandal of AL is the current reality in the Orthodox Church where one is allowed, with Orthodox Church permission up to three remarriages in the Church so all sacraments are allowed. The doctrinal pluralism desired by Pope Francis is the current reality in the Orthodox Church where the sacraments of converts from Catholicism are treated differently by different autocelphalus Patriarchates. The Orthodox Church can't even hold an ecumenical synod (not even a council) because they can't herd the cats of nationalism.

Unfortunately, as St. Peter affirms in John 6:68 that we have no other choice but to be Catholic.

William Tighe said...


What Anil Wang wrote; also

(1) the Orthodox practice of allowing remarriage after divorce during the lifetime of the divorced parties is, it seems, an innovation in the Byzantine Empire of the 10th/11th Centuries, a consequence, perhaps, of the abolition of "civil marriage" in that Empire ca. 885 AD and making "church marriage" the only legally recognized form of valid marriage for its Orthodox Christian citizens; it was not thus previously, and

(2) the second sentence of Anil Wang's third paragraph seems confused and confusing as written, but it is a very fair question to as "Why reject Florence, but accept Chalcedon?" and "Why accept Chalcedon, but reject Florence?" Half the Christian East rejected Chalcedon, and their present-day decendants constitute the "Oriental Orthodox" churches, misleadingly termed the "Monophysite" churches - the Armenians, the Egyptian Copts, the Ethiopians, the Syriacs, and the offshoots of the latter in South India. Just as do the Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox claim that their communion constitutes "the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church;" and to my mind, from a historian's perspective, if one rejects the "papal claims" then it seems to me that that the case for the Oriental Orthodox is a strong, nay, stronger, than that of the "Chalcedonian Orthodox" since it was the acceptance on the part of the latter of the "Formula of Hormisdas," a strong statement of "Sixth-Century Papalism," that effected the final and decisive split of Eastern Christians - leaving aside the so-called "Nestorians" - into "Chalcedonians" (the Orthodox) and "non-Chalcedinians" (the Oriental Orthodox).

August said...

It fits Western argumentation style.

...we have no other choice but to be Catholic...

In response to

"Both had been satisfied that being 'Catholic' meant being in communion with Pope but over the last few years especially both have been thinking more deeply. In Orthodox literature and websites they have come across the more ancient definition of 'Catholic' by St Vincent of Lerins, the fifth century western theologian who said, 'Quod Ubique, Quod Semper, Quod ab Omnibus' being Catholic one needs to believe that which is believed everywhere, always and by all."

As I tried to point out my brother, who developed an unfortunate attachment to Ayn Rand, we don't have a problem with logic, we have a problem with your definitions.

The Bones said...

Pray for the conversion of Russia!

Deacon Augustine said...

"For one of them Amoris Laetitia, with the interpretation which the Pope seems to put on it, with the footnote which he had apparently forgotten has been the last straw and has led him to question other things about the Catholic Church's claim to be catholic."

As one of the justifications for the diabolical acceptance of adultery in AL was the fact that "This is the way the "Orthodox" do it.", I cannot imagine a more ludicrous reason to seek out the company of the eastern heretics.

Popes have erred, popes have led disgustingly immoral lives, a handful of them have even been heretics. The present fruit-loop-in-charge is just another bad-to-mediocre pope. It is an act of self-loathing to resent his errors and then embrace the same errors with gusto when they are taught by others. Stand and fight on God's side - everybody else has already quit.

Mike said...

If you at least consider that the Holy See is currently vacant, the problem goes away. Does this mean some new and currently unanswerable questions arise? Sure, but at least it does not contradict anything the Church teaches.

If I was Fr Ray Blake, I'd have a hard look at the 1968 rites of Orders that Paul VI produced - both to the Priesthood and the Episcopate. I'd examine them in light of Apostolicae Curae and Sacramentum Ordinis. I would approach one of the SSPX Bishops for a conditional Ordination. I would not retreat from a critical study of this issue out of fear of the conseqences, and give in to effeminacy. As a layman, I only go to Mass and receive the Sacraments from Priests who have been ordained in the traditional rite by a Bishop consecrated in the traditional rite.

As this terrible crisis rages on, souls are being lost every day to apostasy, heresy and schism. There is nothing that should be left off the table if we are to avoid joining them.

Lepanto said...

The last paragraph of Anil Wang's comment is/should be very persuasive to any Catholic considering 'joining' the Orthodox Church (or Churches!). They follow the most liberal interpretation of AL so why leave for that reason. It also seems that 'truth' depends on geographical location in the Orthodox 'mix'. As I understand it, the Russian Orthodox 'Church' considers Catholic orders valid but the Greek 'Church' does not - so truth is variable within Orthodoxy which is exactly what we fear but has not yet occurred. When it does we can perhaps reconsider.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Mike: For goodness sake the last thing is for our Priests and any of us to run away. We must all stand firm and give the greatest support we can to Priests like Father Blake who speak the truth. We are the one true Church. The tares can wait but there should be no question of tearing up the good corn.

Simple Simon said...

FR. Ray, terrific to hear from you again and may your health continue to improve, Deo Gratias.
Lepanto, do I understand you correctly that you believe that truth is as yet not variable in the Catholic Church? If this is your belief, I fear it is without foundation. For example, the Maltese and German Bishops position on AL and that of the Polish Bishops.Pope Francis approves Malta and Germany and thus implicitly rejects Poland.The differences between the two interpretations are simply the differences between falsehood and truth, death and life. This, I believe is the simple truth of the matter. We are now in the realm not of variability but polarity. The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church now resides in intensive care. Only a miracle can save it. And saved it will be, in God's own good time and perfect Way. In the meantime, continuous prayer and fasting is the minimum required from those who are still committed to and prepared to fight for the Faith handed down to us from the Apostles.

Nicolas Bellord said...

We have to be patient. I have just been reading a book about St Teresa of Avila. Two of her closest supporter - Jeronimo Gratian and Sister Ana de Jesus were reviled and punished soon after her death. Two centuries later (about 1780) a Bishop suggested that they should be rehabilitated and a proper investigation be conducted. His suggestion was followed up two centuries later and they were rehabilitated just before the year 2000 and they are now up for becoming blessed. So don't count on seeing the end of this story in our lifetime.

Rick said...


Mateus 16

18 et ego dico tibi quia tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversum eam
19 et tibi dabo claves regni caelorum et quodcumque ligaveris super terram erit ligatum in caelis et quodcumque solveris super terram erit solutum in caelis

Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia, et ubi ecclesia vita eterna

What more is there to say? If Peter is in error then he needs to be opposed as Paul opposed and corrected him, not abandoned.

Nicholas Mitchell said...

I am seriously tempted to reject the entire Christian narrative and embrace Judaism.

Simple Simon said...

Rick, Peter accepted correction but by his deeds and by his words, Pope Francis has made it abundantly clear that he will tolerate no opposition or correction. And he does not stand alone. Hordes of Cardinals, Bishops, priests, religious and lay people pure adore him. There is our trouble. The Polish Bishops stance on AL clearly rejects Francis' position. The Polish statement is admirable yet dare I say it also lamentable. Admirable because it states Catholic orthodoxy, yet lamentable insofar as it does not state explicitly that there is no other possible interpretation of AL. Sooner or later Bishops who hold to the Church's traditional beliefs concerning the meaning and purpose of human sexuality and the nature of the Sacraments will have to withstand Francis publicly and to his face. If not, the Francis era will be remembered as the time when 'darkness and the night' enveloped the Catholic Church.

Simple Simon said...

Nicholas, if you do there is little prospect that you will find peace of mind. Will you embrace Orthodox Judaism or Reform Judaism or Atheistic cultural Judaism or Zionism? If Orthodox, are you prepared for the knife? If Reform, are you prepared for the Jewish version of Catholic modernism? If cultural are you prepared for 'have a nice day'and singing 'If I were a rich man? and if Zionism are you prepared for battle?

Nicholas Mitchell said...

Simple Simon, if I were to convert it would certainly be a proper, Halachic conversion to Orthodox Judaism and all the rigours of its full observance. The joy of Catholicism has evaporated in the last 4 years and the war on the faith and on true Catholics by the powers that be in the hierarchy right up to the Pope has caused me to look at things in a different light. The agents of hell are in charge. Is one really meant to have most of the hierarchy as ones enemy? That is totally destructive of peace!

Rick said...

Simon,

Thank you for your comment.

Clearly we have an anomaly in the history of the Church. Darkness does indeed seem to be descending, and has been descending for decades. The Lord is not absent from His Church, but He is permitting this trial and its temptations. Nevertheless, we accept and defend his words concerning divorce and remarriage as literal, unambiguous, and unimpeachable. If we accept those words, must we not also accept His words concerning Peter? It is a mystery to me how and why He is permitting such a clear and devasting misuse and abuse of authority and power in His Church, but He is. Yes,, we must oppose it and remain faithful, abiding in His love and His Church. Perhaps, the opposition and correction have not yet begun.

Simple Simon said...

Nicholas, I often wondered why I had a deep longing to go to Jerusalem and pray at the Wailing Wall. Eventually, I learned that my father was the illegitimate son of a Jew. Thus, the blood of a Hebrew of the Hebrews flows in my veins. If you and I should go up together to Jerusalem,
let us pray that it will be to die with Him (Jn 11:16) for the faith that he died to gift to us. You might find helpful the poem 'To a Wandering Jew' by John Radbourne. Here is a sample from it.
God's God's love within you is your Native Land!
Then seek none other, never more depart -
For you are homeless save God keeps your heart.

Physiocrat said...

When we judge the Orthodox, the principle "Audi alteram partem" must apply - both sides should be heard. Their interpretation of Matthew 16:18, of the role of the Bishop of Rome and successor of Peter, of the evolution of the Papacy, and of the circumstances of the schism, needs at least to be examined, even if we do not accept it.

So too should we try to understand the reasons behind Orthodox liturgical practices (including Catholic practices which are not followed by the Orthodox, such as Eucharistic adoration), and their subtly different theology: the absent Filioque clause of course, the Orthodox view of the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, Original Sin and Purgatory; the two latter are close to the Jewish position.

The alleged notorious nationalism of the Orthodox is primarily about squabbles of jurisdiction. In practice, away from their home territories, Greeks, Russians, Serbs, etc, seem to be able to collaborate happily. Arguably, our own parishes are more divided. With the abolition of Latin, and despite owing allegiance to a single bishop, our own parishes are more split. Mine is divided between native speakers, Polish, Spanish, Italians, Hungarians, Croatians, Slovenians, Slovaks, etc - each with its own Mass and associated social activities.

The initial question for any Catholic contemplating an eastward move is whether it is a breach of a duty, and that the right thing to do is to stay and suffer for the sake of a greater good. However, the danger is that once one considers the Orthodox claims and theology, our own Latin ones may not seem as solid as we have become accustomed to believe, at which point the only remaining case rests on the geography of episcopal jurisdiction.

Furthermore, there is a price to pay, in the risk of loss of an established network of friends, and the stricter Orthodox rules for confession and fasting, including over 150 vegan days a year.

Ultimately, this is about following Jesus Christ as closely as one can. Perhaps the answer is to pray, wait and listen, which is a good thing to do in any circumstances.