Contradistinction Essential To The Eastern Orthodox Convert?

In a recent post over at the blog Eastern Orthodox Christianity 2.0 entitled St. Gregory, Illuminator of Armenia the author – an ex-Catholic and convert to the Greek Orthodox Church – uses the occasion of the Feast of Saint Gregory of Armenia to touch on the hagiography of our venerable father among the saints. 

The post notes that veneration of Saint Gregory the Illuminator is most commonly found and very dear among the Armenian people whose largest church is the Armenian Apostolic Church – a church of the Oriental Orthodox communion that is NOT in communion with the Eastern Orthodox Communion and has not been since the schism that erupted after the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon.

Curiously, the opportunity is taken to make the following observation:

We have not been in communion since approximately Chalcedon, even though the Church of Rome now allows communion with Orthodox, Orientals, Assyrians, and Polish National Catholics, under certain circumstances– a permission which some Orthodox regard with suspicion, since it was extended without agreement with us Orthodox, and in full knowledge that Orthodoxy forbids Orthodox to partake of non-Orthodox mysteries / sacraments, and vice-versa.

The seguay into the semantic polemics against the Catholic Church – without any explination or link to the nuanced allowances for communion for non-Catholics that come from true Churches – is an odd and curious one to me. It seems irrelevant to the feast and rather unwarranted in the post. One is left to wonder, why is it brought up?

As often as not, in reading my way through English language texts of Eastern Orthodox scholars, the recurring theme I find (in some writers far more so than others) is an incessant need for contradistinction against the Catholic Church.

Why is this?


41 Responses to Contradistinction Essential To The Eastern Orthodox Convert?

  1. Robert says:

    It is an interesting point, that is, whether the common usage of defining a particular Christian denomination against Catholic Christianity implies some sort of dependence on Catholic Christianity. Hardly “proof,” but certainly something to reflect on. With the egregiously anti-Catholic writers one wonders what they would do if Catholic Christianity did not exist.

    As to his point regarding intercommunion– the Catholic position is that Catholics may do so in grave circumstances with the permission of the Orthodox priest. Agreement is written into the very terms and conditions of the permission.

  2. Leo Peter O'Filon says:

    My good friend, I’m afraid you are once again finding polemic where none was intended! Maybe due to some years as a journalist, shop steward, and similar things, I choose my words too carefully, meaning only what I say and no more (usually ;) ), whereas people may be used to looking for more.

    Put yourself in my shoes. I look at my calendar and find it’s the feast day of a purported ancestor, commemorated by Orthodoxy even though his Church was not considered “orthodox” by the ancestors of most of my readers from a couple centuries after his repose until recent years … and still is not by my Church now, but is apparently now by the largest single religious organization in the world, the RCC (with neither changing their doctrine AFAIK). Maybe it’s my difficulty with focus, but I then feel the need to discuss the matter rather than just leave it hanging with partial information. Not polemic, just complete information.

    Given the possibilities, I thought I was actually rather ‘liberal’ in my reporting, allowing benefit of the doubt since I find myself — admittedly inexpert in the subtleties — on one side of the controversy over recent rapprochement between RC/EO churches or representatives, and OO, specifically, the side of the 4th Orthodox Ecumenical Synod (Chalcedon) and the continuous o/Orthodox Holy Tradition, on which o/Orthodox are urged to rely.

    I guess the problem in the end was my frank detailing about the differences between Rome and the rest of us over Rome’s offer to ‘commune’ our Faithful without our Hierarchs’ agreement? My friend, I do feel the need to clarify questions that might come up for my readers, especially fellow Orthodox who might be less familiar than I with the “permission,” and supply information as full as available to me for their understanding (including the link to the USCCB which you carried over from my post but then inexplicably went on to deny: Sleep-deprived? [I am at present!]). In any case, in the interest of (excessive?) completeness, I did note that only “some Orthodox regard [it] with suspicion;” in truth, most don’t know about it AFAIK!

    I’m an old political reporter. I always tried to serve my audience, cut through the cr*p, remember things that maybe the pols didn’t want remembered for the better informing of my listeners, and unlike so many of my former colleagues today, not simply serve as politicians’ mouthpiece, he said she said. But always the facts. It was never my job to give my opinions about pols, and I actually cut out most of the opinions I *so* want to share at EOC ;) , because that’s not what I set out to do there. That blog isn’t about me, nor Culture Wars like this one often seems; it’s about Orthodoxy. Do some opinions get through? Between ego and trying to be personable in presentation, yes. But Big Picture, that’s not what it’s about. It’s not really a controversy blog — ‘countercultural’ as that may seem! — just information. Certainly my hope is to commend Orthodoxy to all. But I think I’m painfully fair; eg, here. Must be the Latin Scrupulous Conscience!

    If you go through life less defensive, you might find yourself less offended. I know whereof I speak. Been there, done that, got the GERD.

    As for “contradistinction” in “English language texts of Eastern Orthodox scholars,” again, consider the context: Christianity in the English-speaking world is overwhelmingly Protestant or Latin. Comparison / contrast is a common and accepted form of exposition: remember Freshman Composition? Speaking for my species(!), in this case, we introduce something less familiar by relating it to something more familiar to the audience. How do you discuss your own Eastern Catholicism, bound to be even less familiar to most people than Orthodoxy is? “It’s like this, but it’s different,” am I right? So why are you trying to make a sin out of a natural, helpful, and accepted expository and communicative method?

    Also, as I thought I said once before, anything referred to as “orthodox,” not just EO, tends by definition to critique “otherdoxy,” whether it’s in Christianity, Judaism, economics, criminal investigation, psychology, medicine, or whatever.

    And converts? Haven’t you known many people who’ve switched from one denomination, philosophy, opinion, party, sports team, marriage (sadly), or stock pick, to another? “This is why I chose x, this is why I dropped y,” is not rare at all, and certainly not the exclusive preserve of converts to EO. Hopefully we eventually are also able to say, “This is what I’m grateful for or appreciate about y anyway.” That kind of mellowness usually comes with years of stability, age, or Divine Gift. Obviously I ain’t there yet!

  3. zan says:

    When it comes from eastern Europeans I can somehat understand, since Catholic and Orthodox states have fought wars with each other for so many centuries there is a strong influential faction with in the Eastern Orthodox Church that is anti-Catholic.

    Imagaine extremely well funded Eastern Orthodox supported by powerful kings and their armies not only were converting Catholics en masse but also bringing bishops, priests, and entire conregations with their church buildings in your own cities over to the Eastern Orthodox Church while keeping their Latin-rite and efforts of this countinuing until the early 20th century (this is all extremely ironic for me saying this since I myself am a staunch uniate).

    So with this analogy it is very understandable, at least for me, for the Eastern Orthodox intellectuals and clergy to develop a strong anti-Catholic faction whose influence easily trickles down to the laypeople (much easier to despise, blame, and hate than love and tolerate, espiecially if you are constantly on the losing side)

    Now immigrants bring this as part of their culture over to America, and although most of the original immigrants are gone these anti-Catholic sentiments remain, or at least toleration of it, and I think some (vocal) protestant converts find common ground on this which may also be a sort of comfort zone consdering how foreign Eastern Orthodoxy would be to their own WASP culture.

    But what do I know….

  4. Mike L says:


    I think zan’s answer explains why some people are part of the problem. But I also think the problem itself runs deeper.

    Orthodoxy as distinct from Catholicism was forged in the Byzantine Empire. It was by imperial authority and under imperial protection that the great councils which hammered out orthodox christology and triadology were held. With the possible exception of Chalcedon, the Church of Rome did not have the major role in those councils. She was a theological backwater by comparison with the East, which also helped explain why her orthodoxy was unquestioned until the 7th century.

    So, cultural, historical, and theological factors together incline the Orthodox to dismiss the papal claims and distinctive Catholic doctrines as the innovations of Westerners who don’t quite “get” the true faith. It really grates on intellectually inclined Orthodox that the pope is ordinarily the world’s most influential cleric. I heard little that was positive from the Orthodox—certainly not from any Russians—when nearly every head of state in the world attended the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Since they just don’t believe that such respect is warranted, the size of the Catholic Church and the influence of the Vatican especially rankles. That, I believe, explains the de rigeur swipes at Catholicism.


  5. Fr. J. says:

    Mike L. If Rome was a theological backwater in the patristic age because the councils took place in the East (which I disagree with), then it can be equally asserted that the East was rife with heresy and therefore needed the councils to straighten them out. It is clear from history that the East was notoriously prone to heretical movements. As for the West being a theological backwater, tell that to Augustine.

  6. Joel says:

    I ardently agree with Fr. J. Hilary of Poitiers, St Ambrose, St Jerome, St Augustine, Pope Leo the Great, Pope Gregory the Great and Isidore of Seville are all doctors of the Church who lived in the Seventh Century or earlier. There are only fifteen doctors who lived up to that time, so half of them are from the West. That hardly constitutes a theological backwater, but if you talk to enough EO’s they will always claim the same to be true, which IMHO stems from jeolousy of the temporal power of the Caroligian Dynasty (that’s an entirely different discussion!). My personal favorite doctor is Hilary. He was so successful at combating Arianism in Gaul that the Arian bishops appealed to the emperor to remove him from the area. He was subsequently exiled to Greece where he was so successful at combating Arianism he was returned to France forever! What a stud!

    I see the offer of the Sacrements to other Churches as the extension of an olive branch and how ever they take that is between them and God. We have done our part in an attempt at reconciliation which we are commanded to do by Jesus (and unable to resist if we are truly living His Gospel).

  7. Fr Gregory says:

    Simple Sinner,

    Just some random, poorly organized thoughts…

    While I agree that it is common for Orthodox, especially converts, to take a swipe at the Catholic Church, I don’t see the blog post by Leo as an example of this. I will say that, had I been writing the post, I wouldn’t have included the example of the Catholic Church’s willingness to commune Orthodox Christians. My rationale for not including it is that–as the current thread suggests–it would probably generate more heat than light.

    That said, the historically, the instance of tacit inter-communion between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches are not unheard of.

    Also during the Communist era, the Moscow Patararichate give permission to its priests to commune Catholics under circumstance not unlike the current Catholic guidelines. Whether this was done with the permission of Rome or not, I cannot say as I do not know.

    If I may hazard though an answer to your question, I think that–for all the fits and starts–our two Churches are getting closer to reconciliation and that makes some Orthodox very uncomfortable. Mostly it makes them uncomfortable because they have not shed their own Protestant theological and spiritual mindset.

    Like it or not, once an Evangelical Christian becomes Orthodox, he embraces an understanding of the Gospel that is in almost ever respect the same as that held by the Catholic Church. Yes, we disagree with each other on a number of important issues–but we agree on almost a fair amount. We are closer to each other than either is to Protestantism.

    For some (and this is offered without reference to Leo) that is emotionally unacceptable and calls into question the legitmacy of their commitment to the Orthodox Church. This is often especially the case for those who hope their family members and friends will join them in the Orthodox Church. That isn’t going to happen if they frame Orthodoxy in terms which are too “Roman Catholic.”

    A quick example, I know Catholic who, after reading materials meant to explain the faith of the Orthodox Church to Evangelical Christian say that the material strengthed their Catholic faith. Too many Evangelical Christian who convert to Orthodox make their conversions without shedding their own earlier anti-Catholic prejudices–being Orthodox I think on some level makes them a uncomfortable because, well, being Orthodox is pretty much like being Catholic.

    Well, as I said, just some random thoughts.

    In Christ,

    +Fr Gregory

  8. Michael says:


    Why this quite unnecessary polemic? O’FILON’s passing remark, although irrelevant in the context and mistaken in some points regarding both Catholic canonical discipline and Orthodox practice, nevertheless doesn’t seem to me intentionally provocative; and in any case doesn’t deserve a polemic response. It is not the way of promoting the cause of reunion for which Our Lord prayed on the night before Crucifixion.

    We shouldn’t forget that the Tridentine definitions were all made in contradistinction to the doctrine of Reformation. The Orthodox are a minority in the West, and it is understandable that they have to formulate their faith in “contradistinction” to us. (Our “charitable” policy is to ignore them as the non-entity: our way of avoiding the “contradistinction”). That some of them still live in the world of anti-Western polemic is also understandable, because similar polemic was evident prior to Vatican II in Catholic documents and theological writings; not to mention the language used even now by many “traditional” Catholics.

    On the other hand, one can only welcome the tone of T.Ware’s (Metropolitan Kallistos) book The Orthodox Church, Fr. Laurent Kleenewerck’ His Broken Body, or Fr. Gregory Jansen’s blog Koinoia. – to mention what I know of.

    (While drafting this post I was not aware that Fr.Gregory posted his own, which I can only welcome. Strictly speaking I should now amend my text with his post in mind, but it could end up worse, rather than better, than originally conceived; so, I decided to leave it as it was.)

    With due respect to FR. J., I see no relevance, in this context, for his claim: “It is clear from history that the East was notoriously prone to heretical movements.” Wasn’t the Second Millennium West overwhelmed by heresies, which did not come from the East, many of which are still very much alive?

    ROBERT, what do you mean by the “Agreement” allegedly “written into the very terms and conditions of the permission”?

    O’FILON’s claim that no agreement exists “with us Orthodox” is true, although his comment was out of place because the Canon Law applies to Catholics. The Catholic Church lays down the rule for admission of the Orthodox, and for permission to receive Communion in the Orthodox Church; and it is up to the Orthodox authorities to decide for their faithful whether they may or may not receive the Communion in the Catholic Church; and whether Catholics may or may not be admitted to the Communion in the Orthodox Church. In point of fact, the Ecumenical Directory requires of the Catholic minister a “due consideration…to the discipline of the Eastern Churches for their own faithful and any suggestion of proselytism should be avoided” (125). While it is true “that Orthodoxy forbids Orthodox to partake of non-Orthodox mysteries / sacraments”, I understand that the reciprocal practice is widespread between the two Antiochian Patriarchates (“Greek” Orthodox and Melchite). And in any case the “vice-versa” isn’t true: according to Bishop Kallistos (see above) the “non-Orthodox Christians, if entirely cut off from the ministration in their own Church, are allowed with special permission to receive communion from an Orthodox priest.”

  9. Robert says:


    I meant that the need for agreement is written into the conditions. That is to say, Rome isn’t saying, “go take communion at Orthodox churches, their opinion be damned–” but rather, “you may receive at an Orthodox church, given the right conditions, including that the Orthodox priest is informed and permits it.”

    I hope that clarifies it. God bless.


  10. Fr Gregory says:


    Thank you for the clarification but this is a distinction more often then not overlooked in practice. I have had more than one conversation with Catholic priests, deacons, Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharistic and laypeople who have actively encouraged Orthodox Christians to receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church.

    I have NEVER had a Catholic priest ask me about communing an Orthodox Christian–I even had to deal with a situation where a Catholic priest-chaplain simply handed an Orthodox student the Eucharist. I have been in hospitals and had Eucharistic ministers offer Holy Communion to my parishioner while I was standing there. When I pointed out this wasn’t acceptable to the Orthodox, I was assured that the Holy Father said it was okay. And on at least two occasions I have been invited to concelebrate the Eucharist with my brother Catholic priests.

    Mind you, I’m NOT holding the Catholic Church as a whole responsible–each man’s sin is his own. I am only pointing out that when these abuses happen and, as when Orthodox Christians take swipes at the Catholic Church, they hinder rather than help reconciliation.

    I wonder sometime if we all aren’t a bit too concerned about how the other side offends us and too little concerned with getting our own personal and communal houses in order.

    In Christ,

    +Fr Gregory

  11. Robert says:

    Fr. Gregory,

    I definitely recognize that attitude. I hope that it goes out the window with the outdated liturgical abuses. Imagine trying to commune one of your parishioners right under your nose!

    Likewise, those priests who asked you to concelebrate really ought to know better.

    There are many areas in which we definitely need to get our house in order. I agree with you there.

    That being said, I think then there are two issues. First, the official position which the Vatican has promulgated. Second, the attitude and abuses which certain members of the Church persist in. Since the author seemed to imply that in the first case communion without permission was encouraged, I merely wished to correct the misconception. For that seems to be false. The second case is a different issue which I wasn’t considering.

    Of course, I am open to correction if I am wrong.

    God bless you Father.


  12. Michael says:

    Yes, FATHER GREGORY and ROBERT, we do have to put our house in order. The Decree on Ecumenism says (No. 4/6):

    “The Catholic Church possesses the wealth of the whole of God’s revealed truth and all the means of grace: nevertheless, its members do not derive from it all the fervent life that they should. The result is decrease in the radiance with which the face of the Church shines in the eyes of our separated brethren and of the whole world, and retarded growth for the kingdom of God. All Catholics, therefore, must make Christian perfec-tion their aim and, each in his own degree, strive for the daily cleansing and renewal of the Church, which carries the lowly and dying state of Jesus in its body until Christ shall summon it into his presence in all its beauty, no stain, no wrinkle.”

    I am sure that Fr.Gregory will not take offence: all he has to do is to replace the “Catholic” with the “Orthodox”, and I will not be offended either. The fact that, in principle, we hold the same position is a blessing, rather than an obstacle to reunion. Once, with the Help, we sort out all the other doctrinal differences, this one, i. e. which Church is the Church in the fullest sense, will simply become irrelevant, because the material differences that determine the fullness will disappear. The Catholics will become Orthodox and the Orthodox – Catholic.

    Let us pray and work that this dream may become reality.

  13. Fr Gregory says:


    Yes, I do understand that the events I related are abuses. My only was that (at least in the States) events such as these are sometimes in the background of Orthodox suspicions of Catholic motives.


    I’m not offended–it is what I was (in my own stumbling way) trying to say. In fact, I could not agree with you more–both sides need to get our respective houses in order. It is too easy for us to distract ourselves from our own shortcomings by looking “West” or “East” rather than within.

    We are trying. For example, I spent Monday/Tuesday at meetings dedicated to helping my own diocese (Chicago & the Midwest-OCA) doing just that–imagine if you will 36 hours devoted to prayer and debate on issues of church administration and finance. I also had several side conversation on formation for seminarians and how to respond more effectively to clergy sexual misconduct. You might be interested to know that in these conversations we are looking–wait for it—Rome-ward! Y’all have some things to teach us and there are a number of us who are willing to learn. (I have a Roman Catholic team coming to my parish in November to speak on the vocation of the laity to sanctify the world. My parish and many of my brother clergy are very excited about the workshops.)

    Could you explain please your last comment (either here or in a private email): “The fact that, in principle, we hold the same position is a blessing, rather than an obstacle to reunion. Once, with the Help, we sort out all the other doctrinal differences, this one, i. e. which Church is the Church in the fullest sense, will simply become irrelevant, because the material differences that determine the fullness will disappear. The Catholics will become Orthodox and the Orthodox – Catholic.”

    In Christ,

    +Fr Gregory

  14. diane says:

    Very simple answer: Like Protestants, Orthodox define themselves against Rome. Opposition to Rome is essential to Orthodoxy’s raison d’etre. It is deeply baked into the Orthodox consciousness. Orthodoxy does not exist entirely in se. It exists in opposition and contradistinction to Rome and the West. Thus anti-Catholicism is *inherent* in Orthodoxy; it is integral to it, just as it is to Protestantism.

    And before anyone bites my head off, please consider: If anti-Catholicism were not so essential to Orthodoxy, it would not be so pervasive in Orthodox writings. It is everywhere in Orthodoxy, both on and off the Internet, and it goes back many, many centuries.

    One cannot even take the sanctuary tour at the local Greek Orthodox food festival without encountering literature that defines Orthodoxy in contradistinction to Rome. I guarantee that one would virtually NEVER find similarly polemical literature at a Catholic festival.

  15. Michael says:

    FATHER GREGORY, I’ll gladly try (to explain what I mean, that is), but will have to be blunt to avoid a misunderstanding.

    I carefully used the qualification “in principle” to avoid an impossible claim, i.e. that both Churches hold strictly identical position – impossible, because the Orthodox Church is believed by the Orthodox to be the Church established by Christ, and the sole one in a full sense; while the Catholic Church is believed by the Catholics to be the Church established by Christ, and the sole one in a full sense.

    As “T. Ware” puts it: “The Church is one, in the sense that here on earth there is a single, visible community which alone can claim to be one true Church” (p. 249 of 1972 reprint). And the UR in No. 2 takes the same position when describing how the present community lead by the Pope and Bishops in communion with him is a continuation of what Christ established with Peter and other Apostles.

    So, in principle we hold the same position, i.e. that there is one true Church, visible here and now. I have called this a “blessing”, because both communities hold that same position in the sense that – and this is important in my view – we do not admit any relativism in that regard; although we differ in our identification of the true Church.

    Now, the difference in our respective identifications of the true Church are not abstract differences, but are essentially linked to differences in other doctrines, or to put it better, they are a result of these other doctrinal differences. So, if we manage to overcome these other differences the abstract difference in identification of the true Church would cease to exist. You would be able to tell us that you are Catholics and that we are Orthodox, and we would be able to tell you that we are Orthodox and that you are Catholics. And the one true Church would cover “both” (there would be no two, but one).

    May the risen-from-the-dead, Christ our true God through the prayers of His most pure Mother,….and all the saints, have mercy on us and save us for He is clement and the man-lover.


  16. Fr Gregory says:


    Why must you bait others? We do not define ourselves against Rome anymore than Rome defined itself against the Reformers at Trent or the Modernists in the late 19th/early 20th century. Yes, some of my fellow Orthodox are uncharitable, but Catholic apologist are often no less uncharitable toward us.

    As for the absence of Catholic polemical literature in your parishes, thank God for its absence–but this is rather a recent absence.

    The fact that anti-Catholic sentiments are common among Orthodox is not acceptable, but it no more calls into question the integrity of the Tradition than do the abuses we see in the Catholic Church call into question the integrity of your own tradition.

    You do what polemicists on both sides do, you emphasis our failures while minimizing your own. You criticism of individuals in legitimate, your willingness to generalize from this to the whole Church is not, it is simply a straw man.

    In Christ,

    +Fr Gregory

  17. Joel says:

    Fr. Gregory, I hope and pray that you will soon be a bishop rather than a priest!

  18. Fr Gregory says:


    Thank you for the kind words–but I hope and pray they never come to past–I am a married Orthodox priest and, well, the episcopate would only come to me at the cost of my wife’s life! (Have no fear, I am not offended, but I would prefer to not be a bishop for many reasons!!).


  19. Joel says:


  20. Michael says:

    DIANE, It would seem to me that it is you who “define” yourself “against Rome.” Are you familiar and do you accept the “Rome” doctrine on ecumenism and the related practical guidelines? We have a Decree on Ecumenism, Ecumenical Directory, and the last Pope has published two encyclicals on ecumenism, one specifically about the Christian East. What is your opinion about these documents? Are they a pick and choose stuff, or binding for a Catholic conscience?

    There are no allegations of your kind in these documents. The Decree on Ecumenism encourages us to study their “particular teaching and history, spiritual and liturgical life, religious psychology and culture” (9). The two books by the Orthodox writers, which I mentioned earlier in this Post, and two Orthodox catechisms I happened to have, contain nothing to suggest that the “(o)position to Rome is essential to Orthodoxy’s raison d’être”.

    Could you list a few specific examples that would support your claim ?

  21. Michael asks:

    Why this quite unnecessary polemic?

    On my end, there is no polemic… I am not looking to maximize a fault for the advancement of my own apologetic. I am asking why the incessant contradistinction is found so very, very often in texts written with the obvious intent of describing what Orthodoxy is… Why the swipes and pointing to us (Catholics) for what they are NOT? It should well stand alone. I have seen it done… but on the internet? Not often enough.

  22. Michael says:

    ASIMPLESINNER, My view is that it would have been more than enough to correct where O’Filon has got it wrong (in his in-passing statement), without retorting with what others might take for swipes.

    With regard to other contradistinctions why not bring them to attention and correct them when they occur, rather than making generalizations?

    I doubt that the Ortodoxy is so serious a competitor to the Catholic Church in America. If it attracts some converts it is more likely due to the post-Vatican II mess in our seminaries and liturgy. What I am more afraid is that the Orthodox would gradually be contaminated by the Western environment.

  23. Nan says:

    Michael, are you aware that long before Vatican II, there were many converts from Catholicism to Orthodoxy in the US? Slavs don’t forget.

  24. Michael says:

    NAN, I am not aware (I am on the other side of the Pond) unless you mean Eastern Rite Catholics who were menaced by the local Latin hierarchs.

  25. NAN, I am not aware (I am on the other side of the Pond) unless you mean Eastern Rite Catholics who were menaced by the local Latin hierarchs.

    Or alternately, Greek Catholcis who were so married to the trusteeship system and provacative non-Catholic parties who were all too excited to cheer on schism in the name of “Return”… That coin has two sides, and this Greek Catholic spent more than a little time in Pennsylvania (as a seminarian no less) hearing more than what is most popularly talked about of an era that was NO ONE’S most shining hour.

  26. Fr Gregory says:


    Watch the polemics please–the trustee system was also popular (albeit earlier in its history) among ROMAN Catholics as well. Also, while it is no one’s shining hour, there were (and continue to be) real injustices committed against Greek Catholics by the Roman bishops. For example, married clergy being denied faculties to serve, the wives of Catholic priests being denied Holy Communion in hospitals, their children denied places in parochial schools. And there is the continual prohibition (thankful now being ever more ignored by Byzantine Catholics) against the ordination of married men to the priesthood.

    ONE reason for Orthodox polemics against Catholics is the mistreatment of Greek Catholics. Even today, how often does the USCCB take into consideration that the perspective of their own Greek Catholic brother bishops? While the CCC has made is noteworthy for its inclusion of the East, this is far from the practice on the ground in the Catholic Church, especially in the US.

    As late as the 1980’s in Dallas, as another example, the local Roman Catholic priest was discouraging his faithful from attending the Byzantine Catholic parish down the road. (I know this because I was at that time a member of the parish.)

    Look, I’m not saying the Orthodox are perfect–far from it. But we need to remember that–as you suggest–none of us has covered ourselves with glory in our relationship with each other. But, that the Latin Church has historically mistreated the Byzantine Church is a source of concern for more than a few Orthodox Christians (myself included).

    More later…

    In Christ,

    +Fr Gregory

  27. Watch the polemics please

    Woooooow Nelly!

    My comment was an exhortation to consider that there in fact were and are TWO SIDES to the story and are far, far, FAR from polemic.

    I am giving you the benefit of a doubt of not being deserving of the “P-word” even though after an admonition to “Watch the polemics please” you air the standard laundry list dealing with the poor Greek Catholics (remembering I am one myself) up to and including the standard anecdotal scenarios about the wrongs done us.

  28. Fr Gregory says:


    Point taken–sorry–I misunderstood your intent–I was responding as much to Michael as you.

    Chagrined and penitent,


  29. Michael says:

    FATHER GREGORY and SIMPLESINNER, I am glad to have learnt more, because I have been for at least 20 years interested in the history of the Eastern Catholic Churches. Although a Western Rite Catholic, I am not reluctant to admit that we, the Westerners, have been treating our Eastern brothers badly ever since their reunion with us. It is both my personal observation and what I have learnt from other sources.

    It is highly unlikely that the examples of provocative anti-Catholic attitude of the Easterners as experienced by you, Simplesinner, in your lifetime, goes back to the time of reunion. My guess is that it is a result of disillusionment that took place in the meantime.

    I presume that, when they chose to restore the broken union, they rightly expected that their respective traditions would be fully honoured, embraced as fully Catholic, and supported at all levels, central, diocesan, in parishes, schools, seminaries, publications etc. Instead, they have been exposed to systematic latinization, both by a pressure from outside and by infiltration within their ranks. And in spite of Vatican II and the Canon Law recently promulgated, they are still second class Catholics, if Catholic at all, in the mind of a typical Western layman, priest, bishop and Roman aparatchick.

    As NAN did not respond to my reply to him/her, it seems to me that what he/she had in mind was exactly what I supposed, i.e. the “many converts from Catholicism to Orthodoxy in the USA”, rather than caused by Orthodox prozelytism, were a response to the disillusionment.

  30. Nan says:

    Well, I’ve had a few other things on my mind, Michael; conversion was caused both by Orthodox proselytizing and disillusionment. Perhaps you’re unaware of the Orthodox Saint, Alexis Toth and Archbishop John Ireland who refused his credentials, which led him to look East, to San Francisco (I know SF is compass point West but that’s where the Orthodox hierarchs were) and his parish became Orthodox after which he ran around converting the masses. So there was both going on.

    My understanding is that the Union of Brest was political rather than religious in nature by virtue of the territories having been taken over by Catholic Habsburgs. I’m not a church historian.

    I know the Maronites have never been out of union with Rome; however, there was a gap of several hundred years in communication and the realization for each party that the other was out there, despite later evangelization by various Catholic religious orders.

    One thing you may not realize is that Slavs have long memories so you can’t assume that attitudes are based on recent history when they may be predicated on the memories of ancestors.

    I’m not sure why you think my gender is in question. Or why you think that people necessarily think to look back in the combox when other things are going on.

  31. Michael says:

    NAN, thanks about the Orthodox Saint (I did not know), but I don’t think we should fear of that now.

    I have never seen the terms of the Union of Brest; it was certainly facilitated by the political situation, but I don’t think that those who actually entered the Union were insincere: they were naïve and believed that they could trust us.

    The Maronites seem irrelevant: they have no “Orthodox” counterpart; i.e. no conversion hazard. I understand that, in the Near East, they are contemptuously called “Eastern Latins” (or like, can’t recall the phrase exactly). In my place they celebrate Versus Populum and have girls altar servers.

    The last two paragraphs are not clear: the Slavs’ long memory, “combox when other things are going on”. I am a Slav; sorry about your gender: not familiar with the name I made it “neutral”. No offence meant.

  32. Michael says:


    See Fr. Gregory’s Blog Koinoia: address delivered at the Synod in Rome by a Greek Orthodox delegate.

  33. Diane Kamer says:

    Dear Father Gregory: I fail to see how responding to Simple Sinner’s post by agreeing with him constitutes “baiting.” With all due respect, IMHO that charge is absurd, especially in light of all the Catholic-baiting practiced by Internet Orthodox every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Again, with all due respect, where is the outrage over *that*?

    For the record, I am testifying ONLY to what I have seen and heard, over and over and over again, ad nauseam.

    At our local Greek Orthodox food festival last year, the literature table outside the sanctuary tour displayed a tract — expressly for sanctuary tourists — explaining how Evil Heretical Rome “broke off” from Holy Orthodoxy and blah-blah-blah.

    I invite you to come to ANY feast or festival at ANY Catholic Church…and I defy you to find any similar tract there, triumphantly proclaiming that Orthodoxy “broke off” from Rome yahda-yahda-yahda. It simply does not happen.

    So often, Catholics make nicey-nice with Orthodox, especially on the Internet, and Orthodox turn around and slap us in the face.

    I deeply appreciate all the exceptions to the rule. But there are enough exponents of “the rule” to make me very discouraged indeed.

  34. Diane Kamer says:

    Oh BTW, Father Gregory, re “rather a recent absence”: I must confess that I am weary of this argument. We are talking about NOW, not way back when. In my experience, Orthodox still cling to a harshly polemical mindset long since abandoned by Catholics as well as by many evangelical Protestants. This is far from a Good Thing, and I don’t see any way that you can whitewash it or “tu quoque” it out of existence.

    Furthermore, as a 57-year-old fogeyess, I distinctly remember the “Bad” Old Days before Vatican II. Yes, I remember some anti-Protestant polemics, but I do not remember any anti-Orthodox polemics *at all* (although I don’t doubt they existed). However, the fact is–at least as far as I can recall, and others can back me up on this–anti*anybody* polemics were simply NOT that central to Catholic life and thought, even back during the Dread ’50s. They played a role in apologetics–but Catholicism was NEVER *all* about apologetics; not even close. The parish of my ’50s childhood had tons of spiritual stuff going on–Masses, Novenas, Benediction, May processions–but I don’t remember *ever* being lectured about how evil and wrong non-Catholics were, and I sure in heck don’t remember tracts to that effect in the back of the church. I’m sorry, Father, but it’s a case of apples and oranges.

    God bless,


  35. Michael says:

    DIANE, on the night before He was crucified, He prayed that all His disciples be one. And the fact is now, that there are hundreds of denominations – all claiming to be the true heritage of Him, while divided among themselves, sometimes bitterly divided. Whoever is wrong, this state of affairs in contrary to His will, it is a scandal to the non-Christian and non-believing world, it is an obstacle to spreading the Gospel, and what is supposed to the visible “mark” of the Church, i.e. her catholicity, universality, is less evident than it would be if all of those who are in some way incorporated into the Church by Baptism, were incorporated into her visible structure – fully.

    I am not trying to patronize – all this is in the Decree on Ecumenism. And the same Decree gives us guidelines as to what to do, which guidelines can be summarized as follows: (1) Let’s put in order our own house, (2) Let’s change our attitude toward those who are separated from us, (3) While taking differences seriously, let’s explore what, here and now, we can do together.

    The work for Christian unity, the Decree teaches us, is a duty of the whole Church, the pastors, and the faithful alike.

    This is a doctrine and directive of our Ecumenical Council, to which we, Catholics, are morally, bound to assent, regardless of the Orthodox do or don’t do. And I think, that we have enough to be quite busy complying, because if we don’t what can the Orthodox gain from joining us? If they don’t, what about His prayer….

  36. Thom says:

    The bottom line: Vatican II destroyed the western Catholic liturgy. The Novus Ordo Mass is bland, Protestantized (with bad hymns and a lack of incense), changed churches–destruction of high altars and simple Baptist-style altar tables put in their place. Do you think that Orthodoxy would destroy its Divine Liturgy in the name of “modernism?” No way. In most western Catholic parishes, the Mass is a complete bore, uninspiring, a travesty. This alone is enough to want to make me convert to Orthodoxy.

  37. Thom says:

    On his death bed, Pope John XXIII regretted calling Vatican II. Padre Pio refused to say the Novus Ordo Protestant Mass.

  38. Robert says:


    1) The Second Vatican Council did not change the liturgy at all. A “consilium” after the council (which was not the council) did.

    2)The bland parts of the Mass, especially the hymnody, was not advocated by the Church. Rather, the Church has consistently advocated Gregorian chant as the paradigm of Church music.

    3)”Versus populum” celebration of the Mass was permitted by the rubrics, but not necessitated. Likewise, new rubrics indicated that new altars could be built apart from the wall so that ‘versus populum’ would be possible… but it did not necessitate or even recommend the destruction of existing structures.

    Almost of all these excesses were from people who hijacked the council to mean what it never meant.

    4)What are *you* doing to reform the Church? Or do you foolishly think that the Church is not in need of reform in every age? The Church needs SAINTS in every age precisely because she always needs such reform. How much do you pray and sacrifice for the Church’s deliverance from its tepidity? I know a LOT of very orthodox and traditional seminarians who could use your sacrifices and prayers. Please do so. And grit and bear it. Things are changing slowly.

    5)Please provide proof as regards St. Pio from a reliable source.

    God bless,

  39. joseph godleski says:

    first you are all wrong this anti catholic attitude you claim is centuries of attacks rome launched against us in the east how many times fr gregory did the crusaders sack constaninople how did the polish people attack the orthodox chruch in poland ns suppress it did you know at one time poland was 75 percent eastern orthodox what about the spanish inqustion how many orthodox died at the hands of zelots in western europe who took their orders from the vatican and what about the usashi in ukraine and croatia and in lithunia all good catholics who killed orthodox christians and jews and gypies you wonder and now the roman catholic church sets up fake eastern rites mirror rites to steal orthodox christians and in russia the fake roman catholic church and steal 750 thousand people in which theat same web site claims that only 500 thousand members were roman catholic in russia before 1917 and that is a inflated figure i bet it is more like 50 or 60 thousand the majority were poles and germans and other foreigners who lived in russia a a hand full of locals but my point is roman is the on who must account for its past deeds not the eastern orthodox church our mistrust and suspsion of the west is not something we pulled out of the air their is many truths in what i say

  40. Well there you have it folks, Joseph disabuses us all. In fact it is not inherent contradistinction, it is just what the evil, wicked west brings upon itself. In one fells swoop of a run-on-paragraph sentence we hit all the standard low notes: Constantinople, evil uniates, Jew & Gypsy killing, Spanish Inquisition, and accusations of inflation and lies about the martyrs in Russia who were, by the way, just foreigners after all.

    Well played.

  41. cynthia curran says:

    Well, the Orthodox church killed a lot of folks also for hersey, the Paulicians some historians stated maybe 100,000, granted many sided with Islam. Also, the Orthodox killed thousands of Catholics during the masscre of the Latins in 1181. Also, Justinian’s war in Italy lasted 18 years and a lot of damage was done, granted the Italian population was divided on becoming apart of Costantinople. again in that war and the Lombards ended up taking a lot of the land from the Byzantines after Justinian’s death. The orthodox have did there share of things as well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: