Advice: Can't decide between Catholic or Orthodox

So, I was born/baptised Catholic, but was out of the Church for many years. I finally had a very deep and very meaningful reconversion experience. And now, I try to do my best to live for Christ and I fully accept Him as my Lord and Saviour and want to dedicate my life to Him. I consider myself a traditionalist and, like many young traditionalists, I felt dissatisfied with the current crisis in the Church and with some of Holy Father’s decisions. Now, I know this still isnt really good reason for leaving. But because of that, I felt drawn to Orthodoxy for a while and after about a year I decided to convert. I felt that since the RC Church considers Orthodox sacraments valid that it wasnt as if I was straying all THAT far from home. I loved the beauty of the high liturgy, the staunch traditionalism, etc. I was pretty confident when I did, at the time. But now, not so much. I really miss certain devotions and saints I grew up venerating and loving, which, according to the Orthodox church, I am no longer permitted to venerate. Also, as an American, I do not care one bit at all for these jurisdictional disputes between the Moscow Patriarchate and the EP of Constantinople. But being in a ROCOR church, I am not allowed to commune in churches under the EP and that is a big problem because almost all the churches near me are under that jurisdiction. My regular church is not so close and currently I am without a car. I don’t know what I am hoping to achieve here other than complaining, so please forgive me but I thought maybe some advice and encouraging words would help. Maybe even some helpful and constructive criticism. Currently, I am not communing at church because I feel that it would be best to first solve this personal theological crisis before communing in either church. Any thoughts would be most appreciative. Thank you and God bless!!

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Good morning.

After reading your post, I have a few questions I would like to ask you. #3 is the most important.

  1. Is style or outward beauty (I was once drawn to the Orthodox myself for the same reason—though I am a more Greek/Antiochian guy, myself) worth what you have given up? What all have you given up to be where you are?
  2. Do you have any theological degrees? If not, you mention you have issues with some of the Pope’s decisions—who is more likely to be correct on the theological substance?
  3. Filter each decision through Christology. What does remaining Orthodox say about your Christology? What does being Catholic say about your Christology? All theology, even ecclesiology, is ultimately about Christ for a Christian. If there are disagreements about ecclesiology, then there are some disagreements regarding something about Christ, what he said or did, or who he was.
  4. Where can you be the best Christian you can be?

Though my situation is different from yours, the questions I asked you were a few of the same ones I asked myself. I wasn’t comfortable with what my remaining Lutheran implied about what I believed about Christ, so, step by penitent step, I am slowly returning home to Rome.

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I wonder how many folks over 2000 years have left the Catholic Church for various reasons that did not fit their personal criteria? Take a giant step back, remove yourself from the equation and take a realistic look at others who left. If you put ALL their reasons for leaving in one basket and deducted their reasons from the Church, whether it be theology or liturgical THERE IS NOTHING LEFT OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. (Not yelling, just emphasizing). I can guarantee you with 1000% certainty that there is not one single Pope who has not disturbed a portion of the clergy or laity with some of his decisions. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the authority of the Bishop of Rome is either authentic, binding, and not dissolvible or it never existed in the first place. Not even St. Peter himself could please everyone. I know for me, my loyalty is to the Church, and if there is a Pope I’m not pleased with, well, he isn’t big enough to make me seek shelter elsewhere. If you wait long enough there will be another Pope who also can not please everyone, it never ends. With each person to leave the Church comes another division or at minimum it adds to an existing division, those divisions become multiplications, that math does not look pretty at all and it’s not the math our Lord prayed for when He prayed for unity and for us to be ONE, not many. In no way am I criticising you or judging anyone’s hopes for salvation, I only pray for the unity that Christ prayed for and it pains me to see such a divided flock.

God bless and may the peace of Christ be with you.

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I understand what you’re struggling with right now. As a Byzantine Catholic I myself am often on the fence, communion with Rome or become fully Orthodox. My 2 cents:

  1. You mention that the RCC recognizes that the Orthodox have valid sacraments therefore valid apostolic succession. This is true, also, the Church recognizes the Orthodox as “true Churches.” If they are recognized as “true Churches” with valid apostolic succession and Eucharist are they outside the Church? I say no. The “schism” between the Latin West and the East is internal, a dispute between upper management of you will. (I know I will have many disagreeing with me here)
  2. You mention you love the beauty of the Liturgy. This is what first caught my attention to the Byzantine Catholic Church. However, I realized that if I truly wanted to be Byzantine I had to learn and understand Eastern theology which differs somewhat to Western theology. Once I started learning I got sucked in. Do you see yourself as Eastern? Not just liturgically but in the way you live out your spiritual life, theologically, or do you see yourself as a RC refugee who is fleeing what you believe to be bad liturgical practice or the abuse scandal (which no church is immune to by the way). The reason I ask is because you cannot be both Eastern and Western. It leads to spiritual schizophrenia. This is not to say that you can not have certain private devotions or private devotions to certain Saints.
  3. I wouldn’t worry about the Saint issue. I believe whether Catholic or Orthodox you can have a private devotions to any saint and place them in your icon corner.
  4. Being ROCOR I understand that it is hard especially with the break in Eucharistic communion between the MP and EP. It was sad to see on the Sunday of Orthodoxy this year that the ROCOR did not celebrate with the Greek Church.

Good luck!

ZP

I truly appreciate all the advice. Its been rough because i do not want to treat my faith as an idol, you know. I do consider myself western and i come from a long, long line of Catholics going back ages. I have no eastern ancestry however, at the same time, Truth is more important than ancestry and identity. Still, I would have to say that because of all the creeping liberalism in the church, and due to the fact that Orthodox were deemed valid sacraments and their churches seemed to be resisting this (apart from the strong latin mass parishes) I became drawn to Orthodoxy.

Your original post contains the reason why the EO Churches are not the Church we profess in the Creed.

They simply are not one. Many of their theologians even admit that the an ecclesiology that acknowledges one universal Church necessitates the primacy, which is why they try and defend a purely Eucharistic ecclesiology. They are simply a collection of particular Churches (a particular Church being defined as a bishop and flock celebrating a common Eucharist) that are separated from that one, universal Church.

They constantly get into situations where EO particular church A is in communion with B, B is in communion with C, but A and C are not in communion with each other (A=B=C≠A) (e.g. the current schism between Constantinople, Moscow, and some Ukrainian Churches and others; ROCOR’s situation generally; the Moscow-Contantinople schism in 1996; the Bulgarian schism of the 19th century when most patriarchates, but not Moscow, broke communion with the Bulgarian Churches; etc., etc.). How can one universal/catholic church simultaneously have some particular churches in communion with other particular churches, while other churches are separated from each other? That’s not unity. This can only make sense if there is a plurality of Churches–the “one” of the Creed is lacking–and without this oneness, the very concept of one catholic/universal Church becomes untenable.

This was illustrated perfectly by the recent pan-Orthodox Synod (or whatever it ultimately was classified as). It barely even got off the ground because Churches were threatening to boycott (and many did) because they were fighting with other Churches over who had jurisdiction over what. Despite the EO polemics about all bishops being equal, if you look at how that synod was explicitly organized and carried out, the bishops who participated in that synod did not do so as equal bishops of one Church, but as representatives of multiple, distinct, national Churches and patriarchates. What was sought was not a consensus of the bishops of one Church (or even a consensus of particular Churches), but rather a consensus of independent national Churches–which didn’t happen anyway.

The grass has looked greener on either side of the fence depending on what point in history you pick. No doubt, the Catholic Church has its problems, but there is no denying that it is one body–this is obvious to all, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. As with any one body, we all share in the suffering and problems of the rest; but we also are able to better carry out the great commission–and have done so better–than any other.

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You, sir, make an outstanding point. Very spot-on. I feel bad, partially, because the Orthodox priest-monk who baptised me is a very great man and helped me a lot. Of course, living where i live, there also aren’t many Orthodox at all, and certainly none who are from my culture (Anglo-American). I don’t know. But certain anti-western polemics I constantly hear in the Orthodox community I do find a little hard to get used to. Strangely, this seems to be especially so among western-born converts. I’ll be honest, when i hear people in the Orthodox world make disparaging remarks about the West, especially if they are native easterners, I feel offended. Those are still my forebears. Having no Eastern forebears, I don’t really have the same attachments they do. On the other hand, I also don’t want to treat my Faith/Church as an idol. Ancestry, identity, etc., these things are absolutely not important as Christ, His Church, and the Faith.

I am doing a lot of thinking. This is very, very hard for me right now because I want to be pleasing to God. Of course, on the other hand, there are indeed things happening right now in the Catholic Church that the Orthodox just aren’t dealing with. At least not the Russian and OCA churches. I have to be honest when I say that if I did come back to Catholicism, I would either attend SSPX or any number of parishes that were traditional and offered latin masses.

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Just one or two thoughts… Please come back home… There are terrific Eastern Churches that recognize the Papacy. They are in union with us and have beautiful, scared and meaningful liturgies. We need unity not division . please, please come back to the Church that Jesus gave the Keys to Saint Peter and pray for unity.

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It goes both ways. I have run into Western Christians (Latin Church) who have argued about Eastern theology even though Eastern theology is part of the Universal Church.

I’ve noticed this also.

ZP

Greetings Maxim! I will try to write as charitably as possible, but being Orthodox myself I have an obvious bias :wink:

I became Orthodox because of the unwavering commitment to the faith of the Early Christians, whether in liturgy, fasting, “holding the line” against modernism, etc. The recent changes in the Roman Church (allowing liturgical dance, worship bands, “rock music” masses) did not bring me to Heaven. The extremely floral, poetic, beautiful Orthodox services did. The Roman fasting schedule did not challenge me, but the Orthodox one did. Whatever else we may discuss, it’s undeniable that the Orthodox have kept the ancient rules of the Fathers.

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But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you

Ask for guidance of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name.

Here’s my thoughts, Maxim.

I’m of course, a Roman Catholic and I hope and pray for your journey home.

In my discernment into the Faith; I knew the Protestant denominations didn’t have it right. So, I looked at both lungs of the Church.

One one hand, I admit: The Orthodox Churches have beautiful Liturgies, a beautiful spirituality, in particular I’m thinking of hesychasm, the Jesus Prayer and their view of things as spiritual healing of the soul; but the problem I had was that they’re split along national lines and each Bishop heads his own church.

No unity; unfortunately. Plus, the business that they don’t recognize Saint Peter as the Head of the Church and their tradition of the Byzantine Emperor being the Head of the Church. Sadly, Byzantium has fallen to the Turks.

Wish it weren’t so.

As for the Latin Church: I see in her the fullness of the Faith, has faithfully preserved, passed down and taught the Faith all through 2,000 years and has remained the one, Holy, catholic and Apostolic Church and is entirely Scriptural.

We have had our problems over the two millennia; but: We remain the one and whole Church.

I understand the problems we face in the Church today and sometimes it seems she slides towards accommodations with Protestantism and liberalism. But: She is still the Church Jesus founded with Saint Peter as the Rock.

Please, come home to us.

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i thought that there were bi-ritual Catholic priests.

Archbishop Gerhard Müller said that although Pope Benedict XVI lifted the canonical excommunication of SSPX prelates, they remain suspended from the sacraments because “by their schism they have broken away from communion with the Church.”

I left Catholicism for Orthodoxy like 16+ yrs ago. It was a beautiful experience and I learned so much in that part of my journey.

Our family reverted to Catholicism earlier this year.

My thoughts: Keep reading the Bible, Catechism of the Catholic Church (you’ll even find the Jesus Prayer in there) & the Early Church Fathers (East & West) and most importantly Pray. Specifically, ask St. Peter’s intercession while asking God what role He gifted to him - universal jurisdiction or not.

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True. There are priests that have faculties in a rite other than their own. When my Ruthenian parish started out as just a mission Church many, many moons ago, the priest who served was a bi-ritual priest. He was a RC priest who had the faculties to serve the Melkite Divine Liturgy.

However, being a bi-ritual priest does not mean your Roman Catholic and Byzantine Catholic. It just means who have been given permission to serve a Liturgy other than your own. Thank the Lord for these men. There are many Byzantine parishes that are only around because of RC bi-ritual priests.

ZP

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I have thoughts about converting to Orthodoxy at times, but then I am reminded at how broken the Eastern Churches are. I would pray if I were in your position. Our Lady will lead you.

I’m going to get dragged for this but…

2 reasons why I never considered the Orthodox Church even though their liturgies are amazing:

  1. I have about five Roman Catholic churches within 5 miles from my house. The closest Orthodox Church is about 15 miles away.

  2. The command Jesus gives to “make disciples of all nations” has hands down (and continues to be) largely fulfilled by the Catholic Church. While I’m sure that the Orthodox Churches have made efforts do do so, I don’t think any other branch of Christianity has done as much as the Catholic Church has in this regard.

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And that’s just it. Take the position I am in right now. I’m without a car for the foreseeable future. I have no idea when I can get that fixed. My usual Orthodox church is about an hour from me. Now, while there are Orthodox churches closer to me in my area that I could take a bus to, guess what? They are under the Ecumenical Patriarchate, so I am forbidden to even enter their church and pray with them, let alone take communion with them. These petty political dispute, to me, as an American, is of no importance really. The sacraments should still be what matters. And its not as if I dont have any opinions about the recent schism between the MP and Bartholomew, but I don’t think these things should get in the way of regular laity receiving Our Lord through the Holy Mysteries. Honestly, the whole situation just annoys me to no end. And from what I understand, these schisms happen all the time in Orthodoxy, throughout the years. How unnerving that is, to live never knowing if that can happen at any time! It affects the faithful in countries like the US and UK the most because here we have so many different jurisdictions all mixed together. I don’t think the higher clergy seem to consider this very much when they make these decisions.

I will say that since I converted to Orthodoxy, I havent had to deal with this particular problem until now, and now that I am, its really hitting me. It would be so easy for me to simply go to Catholic mass, there are numerous within walking distance where I live.

You’re right that these things do happen periodically. They also did in the Early Church: The Photian controversy, the Quartodecimans, etc. Like you said, though, it’s more difficult because we are in America, since we live in a very uncanonical situation where every church has its representatives here. This is absolutely not supposed to be the case, but the history of Western settlement has made it so. Normally you would not have this problem.

Something that may be helpful is to consider is: whether you go to SSPX or TLM, if you are a Roman Catholic then you would have to at least affirm the validity of Novus Ordo, liturgical dance (approved by Vatican Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship in 1975), a validly-offered LifeTeen rock band Mass, etc. Even if they’re not your cup of tea (or mine!), you would still have to say that they’re a legitimate / viable option, and that people have a right to them, because the Holy See has said so. You would need to support that right - and if you think you’d have trouble doing that, I imagine that may be problematic for you as a Roman Catholic.

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