Sailing to Byzantium
This post has been some time in the making.

I'm sailing to Byzantium, swimming the Bosporus, doxing, or, if you don't like euphemisms, converting to Eastern Orthodoxy.

This has been in the works for some time. It is not related to Pope Francis--if anything, Francis would keep me in the Roman Catholic Church. Rather, it is because I have become convinced, on the testimony of the Church Fathers, that the RCC not only isn't, but never even was the true Church.

I could go into why I think this, or what books I read, or what specific issues are problems, but that would simply produce argument, which is not my intention here--I am already decided, anyways. However, I can give the general reason: I do not believe that the Church fathers support the doctrine of the papacy--that is, I do not think there is a "seed" for the doctrine of papal supremacy and papal infallibility, to use Newman's terms. After realizing this, and going to Orthodox Liturgy, and speaking with the priest there, all sorts of things started to fall into place as well. I am now well beyond being convinced out of it.

This doesn't mean that I have no regrets, or a sense of loss. I will miss, and do already miss, the Latin mass, and the cultural inheritance of the western church, and communion with all the people I know and love. I wish I could still claim the Pope and Catholic saints and other persons whenever they do something holy or awesome. But it is my duty to stick with the Church, which is the Holy Orthodox Church.

Thus, I may or may not ever post here again--I don't know. If I do, this post was necessary, so that I would not disguise myself as a Catholic. If I do not, Godspeed to you all. These forums have helped me, in their way, to a great degree.
Beardly, as I told the other gentleman, I personally don't think you're doing yourself much harm, spiritually.

However, the truth is that you've simply exchanged one set of problems for another (e.g., jurisdictionalism, phyletism, chauvinism, insularity, failure to evangelize all nations or serve the poor, etc.).

But maybe you'll like those problems better.

Have you read the story of Saints Nicholas and Cassian that is recounted by Soloviev in his book, The Russian Church and the Papacy?  That summarizes well the conclusion I've come to concerning Orthodoxy (and certain expressions of Catholic traditionalism as well).  You can read it here:

Orthodox problems are also described by St. Maria Skobtsova of Paris in her great essay, "Types of Religious Lives", which you must read as you discern whether to go forward with chrismation:

You have "purity" versus the Gospel.  I invite you to really think and pray about that.  Read the Gospels.  Now, where is that religion -- the religion of the Gospels -- including the role of Peter?  Be honest with yourself.
It might be a good idea to read Soloviev's entire book, or at least Parts One and Two:
Just caught this after my hospital stay and I have to say that I am deeply saddened and will pray for your return to the Bosom of Christ's One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church. I do not say this flippantly. I started out on the other side of the river, so to speak, at the confluence of the Sava and the Danube in Belgrade. I became an Easterner obedient to Rome exactly because I realised after long prayer and discernment that the Orthodox Church was a leaderless faux Church, making mock of Christ's promise to be with His Church always. Yes, its Liturgy is beautiful, it seems to adhere to Tradition, but without the Centre of Unity in Rome, guaranteed by Christ, how can they be anything except a pale imitation of the One, True, Church of Christ under His vicar, the Pope of Rome?
Marriage is indissoluble.  Christ's teaching on divorce and remarriage can never be altered, by "economy" or any other fiction, and it is the Catholic Church alone that upholds His teaching.
Just a few quick replies:

Clare:I am not joining the Orthodox Church to avoid the temporal problems of the Roman Church. I am joining it because I believe it to be the True Church. However, of the problems you mention, three stick out to me: insularity, failure to serve the poor, and failure to evangelize all nations. A few points:

1. The Orthodox Church is only insular insofar as it does not change what it teaches in accordance with the times. The truth is the same today as it was in the first century. Certainly, there are different ways of expressing the truth, and Orthodoxy has made much use of these--in present day more than the Catholics have--but the truth itself does not change.
2. The claim that the Orthodox Church has failed to serve the poor is untrue on two counts. First, the Orthodox Church *is* poor, and the reason it often refuses to take the "aid" of other, more wealthy Christians from the west is because that aid comes with missionary strings attached. Second, the claim that the Orthodox do not help the poor is simply historically false in all sorts of ways. The Orthodox Church has helped the poor throughout most of its history. Just because it does not have mendicant orders does not mean that the Orthodox Church does not help the poor. There are many books on this subject, and once I find the references, I will give you their titles.
3. The whole "failure to evangelize" argument, while the most used argument I have heard, is entirely false. If one merely looks at the history of evangelization in east and west, one will notice a few things:
a) East and west evangelized at about the same rate and evangelized the same sorts of peoples (pagans, mostly--neither evangelized the Muslims, the exception being on account of wars) until the fifteenth century.
b) The West's evangelization, before and after the discovery of the Americas, was mostly on account of its superior geographic position. Colonialism was almost exclusively done by western powers, the one exception being Russia's steady eastward expansion. However, missionary activity and conversion almost always preceded Russian expansion by some time, and went beyond the Russian Empire. Western missionary activities, until the past century, have been restricted almost entirely to colonized nations.
c) The Eastern Orthodox Church, moreover, has been oppressed for most of its history. The Ottomans, the Mongols, the communists, and the Catholics.

I want you to tell me where, exactly, the Orthodox have failed in evangelization, or the Catholics have succeeded in some great manner? As I see it, Catholic evangelization has largely existed because of war and conquest; the Catholic saints and missionaries (whose personal holiness I have no doubt of) did just as much as their eastern equivalents; they simply had many more opportunities to evangelize than their eastern counterparts, because of western Colonialism. In present day, the Orthodox Church is evangelizing more than ever. Your claim that, somehow, the Orthodox Church has failed in some respect that the Catholic Church has not is groundless.


Jovan: I ultimately cannot believe this. Look at the unity of the Catholic Church today--what unity is there in being in communion with heretics? What unity is there in a liturgy, made up in the sixties, celebrated in hundreds, if not thousands of unrelated forms, altered willy-nilly, by bishops and priests whenever they should desire? What unity is there in constantly changing (or "developing") doctrine? You have universal obedience to one bishop, yet, for all this, you end up without unity. It seems to me that the unity of the Catholic Church is not a unity to the past, nor is it a unity in the present--either of doctrine, or practice, or liturgy, or ethics. Catholic unity is only one sort of unity--a unity in obedience to the Pope. But obedience for unity's sake is obedience for its own sake, and obedience for its own sake is no virtue--it is instead a distraction from unity with Christ. And indeed, the Orthodox are unified in liturgy, in doctrine, and in practice, and where there is disunity, the reasons are either well beyond anyone's control (e.g. the jurisdictional disunity caused by communism's persecution of the Church) or are soundly condemned as heresies (e.g. the nationalism the Orthodox somehow became famous for, which arose for historical reasons not present in the west, which has been condemned on multiple occasions, and persists in spite of Orthodoxy). Honestly, I would say that the Catholic Church is a faux Church, which has unity on account of obedience, which is no true unity. Unity is guaranteed only by the Holy Spirit, not by obedience to a bishop in a particular place--for the Church is beyond the bounds of place and time. Why did Thomas evangelize India, and why did Philip the Evangelist convert the Ethiopian eunuch, if these ancient centers of Christianity were doomed by historical and geographical circumstance to fall out of communion with the bishop of a particular city, Rome?


DJR: This argument (or assertion, rather) is secondary, not in importance, but in logical priority. As such, I see no cause to respond, except to say that, historically, early Christians, while viewing divorce as a sin, and a grievous one, did not view it as an unbreakable legal contract. It was, and is, a sacrament, and, like all sacraments, is given to us by God for the life of the world. Man is not made for the sacrament, but the sacrament for man, for his life in Christ. This view persists in Eastern Orthodoxy.


Also, Vox, if this post (or any future ones in this thread) has somehow broken any of the rules against un-Catholic ideas or attitudes, please move it to the cornfield. I have no desire to break the forum rules here--I simply wanted to give some defence and response to the above arguments and posts.
(01-09-2014, 03:49 AM)Beardly Wrote: I want you to tell me where, exactly, the Orthodox have failed in evangelization, or the Catholics have succeeded in some great manner?

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I have been tempted like Beardly many times and although many of his points seem to be quite true when you read the gospels and the early Church regarding the role of Peter, the See of Peter there's more evidence for the Catholic claims than there is for the Orthodox. At heart I'm Eastern, not western, preferring icons to statutes, the Divine Liturgy to the Latin Mass, the Jesus Prayer to the Rosary,bearded clergy to clean shaven ones, "basilian" monasticism over a multitude of "orders", standing to pray rather than kneeling,a theology of deification,transfiguration and light over a theology of suffering, the Cross and death as atonement for divine wrath but i can have all that without breaking communion with the see of Peter and so can you. You do not have to enter one of the various Orthodox Churches to be Eastern!
That's no explanation, and I can take it to mean multiple things. However, I assume you are simply talking about the evangelization of the Americas.

If that is the case, I shall only say that the Orthodox Church had no opportunity to evangelize the Americas before the 19th century--when, as it happens, they began evangelizing the Americas. The Arians got to the Germans first, the Nestorians got to the Mongols and Chinese first, and the Monophysites got to Ethiopians first. That the Church did not evangelize these peoples first does not at all affect the status of the True Church as the True Church, nor does it imply some great failure of the Church. Things entirely precluded by geographic and historical circumstances cannot be counted as failures--and if they can, the Roman Church has just as much to answer for as the Orthodox Church.

But let's talk about what the Orthodox Church actually did in terms of missions. Take a look at this map:

Note, if you will, the location and size of the Russian principalities. There were Orthodox Christians east of these principalities, especially in the lands of the former Golden Horde, but there were few Orthodox further than the Urals--mostly hermits and the Old Believers. However, over the course of the next four hundred years, Orthodox missionaries took the gospels from Russia to Alaska and California, evangelizing Japan, Mongolia, China, and other nations along the way, translating the Liturgy, hymns, and the Scriptures into native languages, inventing new writing systems, establishing dioceses and parishes, and overall converting hundreds of thousands of souls. Moreover, Orthodox missionary activity continues to this very day, especially in the Americas--Guatemala in particular, for some reason.



As I have stated, my reasons for converting are not so that I can be eastern--I didn't even like most of that (except the beards part) before deciding to convert. My reason has been, and still is, that I believe that the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church spoken of in the Creed, which was founded at Pentecost. The initial cause for believing this is simple: the testimony of the Church Fathers does not support the doctrine of Papal supremacy, and all attempts to make their testimony seem to accept this heresy--John Henry Newman's theory of the development of doctrine--are merely justifications for the use of widespread confirmation bias in one's intellectual endeavours. After I decided to convert, I began to see deeper problems and disagreements, and the issue of the pope became less important as the issue of the trinity became more important. Nonetheless, my reasons for converting, at base, are not about my tastes, or likes and dislikes. Honestly, I am actually quite nostalgic for Catholicism, and I was especially so over the holidays, yet this nostalgia was for cultural aspects of Catholicism that were familiar to me, and not for any theological cause. Ultimately, my reasons remain theological--and these have come to include issues like theosis, etc.

Also, one thing stuck out in your post. You spoke of "various Orthodox Churches." There is only one Eastern Orthodox Church. Even if you count the Oriental Orthodox Church (with whom we are on the brink of reunion anyways), that still only makes for two Orthodox Churches--although I shall restrict myself to speaking of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which in liturgy and doctrine is identical throughout the world, within which all bishops are in communion with each other and with God, and which has maintained this for two thousand years without corruption of doctrine or liturgy. I would hardly use the word "various" to describe this phenomenon; though the accusation of disunion is a common one, I honestly don't think it is true. There are, by many orders of magnitude, fewer variations in the Orthodox Church than in the Roman Catholic Church; the only issue is that the variations which do exist in the Orthodox Church are generally on the level of patriarchates and autocephalous churches, while the variations in the Catholic Church are so many and so pervasive that they affect two dioceses in the same country, or two parishes in the same city--even parishes only blocks away from each other--or even two masses at the same parish. A large part of my life as a Catholic (and I assume all of yours as well, as you all are on a forum for trads) is knowing what parish to go to for what mass, knowing which possible confessors are liberals, Jesuits, neoconservative, knowing whether your bishop is for or against "Tradition," and all manner of things that ought not be a part of Church life.

Now don't get me wrong: there are problems in Orthodoxy too. Yet I have heard this claim (that Orthodoxy is divided and in a state of disunion, that the Church is not One), explicitly or implicitly many times since I have decided to convert. If anyone wants to criticize the Eastern Orthodox Church for divisions and disunion, I would ask them to honestly examine their own Church, and ask of the divisions there.
One thing that has has me thinking for quite some is the issue of the quiet conversion of the Benedictine hermit and scholar of the early Church Fathers Hieromonk Gabriel Bunge  away from Rome to Orthodoxy. He spoke of how he read the Way of the Pilgrim when he was young, how he traveled to Greece and took up the Jesus Prayer and how the East/West issue haunted him for decades until he finally could nor just admire the East from the outside, he had to be inside it. He also mentions how it was hard to all of a sudden not be able to give Communion to Catholics but he seems to be happy with his decision. He didn't make it hastily either, i mean, it took him till he was in his 70's but still he did it. It's been interesting to me because I'm constantly pulled East, than back again and by and large I'm not really Western at all in the way I do things, and yet at this time I can't seem to want to break communion with the See of Peter.  As for my use of the word "various" i don't mean that the churches all have different doctrine but that there are in fact churches that are Russian,Serbian,Georgian,Bulgarian,Cypriot,Ukranian etc. Generally in terms of the content of the faith itself the various Orthodox churches are more united than in Catholicism, although there are some differences in practice (frequency of confession, confession before communion rather than just fasting being more important, how converts are received,etc)  here in my neck of the woods the local Greek parish receives converts by confession and Chrismation but the monastery down the road receives everyone by re-baptism and will not commune nor even allow those just chrismated to stand outside the narthex at the liturgy! This is right in the same jurisdiction! This stuff is rampant in Orthodox circles which can make it hard when traveling. Are you Orthodox enough to even stand with other Orthodox at this parish, must you tell the priest before the service you wish to receive communion and have to show him your (Orthodox only) baptismal certificate to be let in? This stuff really happens and it's not that isolated.

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