I have decided to repost this in the Eastern catholic forum, as I hope to get some guidance from Eastern Catholics on the matter.
The title says it all. I don’t know if this is the right forum, but I consider this a moral dilemma, so this was where I decided to go with this discussion. I am an Orthodox Christian. I grew up in a schismatic traditional Catholic church and came into communion with Rome when I was 19. It is now several years later and have planted myself in Orthodoxy for various reasons. The reason I have titled my thread as frozen mode is because over the course of my journey into Orthodoxy, I have went back to the catholic Church a couple of times. At this point I do not know what to do and feel that my prayers are not being answered from God to show me the truth. I do feel that I have been given sign to confirm my Orthodoxy (be it from God or Satan) and same goes for the Catholic faith (also be it from God or Satan). This is the problem. Which do I listen to? I never have quite the same struggle (mentally, emotional, and spiritually) as a Catholic as I do an Orthodox. As a Catholic, things just go right in life. I just don’t know if I should interpret these struggles as a sign of my disobedience or Satan trying to discourage me and keep me from the truth. But at the same time, very, very, very coincidental things sequentially happen to me, and when I take a hard look at it, it seems as though I am being confirmed in Orthodoxy.
So, to the meat of the matter. I was led away from Rome for a variety of reasons. Mostly because of a severe departure from tradition that the Orthodox as a whole seems to have held on to. The following are my concerns:
-Infants not receiving the Eucharist
-Receiving the Eucharist before being Chrismated (this makes absololutley no chronological sense to me)
-The oversimplification of various prayers and actions in the liturgy
-The fact that there are very few icons in Catholicism and there is an entire Ecumenical council that is dedicated to venerating icons
-The fact that there was no single teaching as to the indissolubility of marriage before Trent. Many local councils in the West did in fact allow divorce and grant remarriage.
-The fact that the sacrament of penance is a development out of the persecutions of the early church and the question as to how to receive back apostates. I have heard this from both Catholic and Orthodox sources.
-Mistranslations of the vulgate to support an Augustinian view of Original Sin.
-The over emphasis on the law and rampant legalism that specifically affected the West before Vatican II.
-And not to say that Orthodoxy doesn’t have a role in this, but the concept of conversion by force (a very Islamic concept)
-Overall, the East has maintained more of a mystical approach to the faith whereas the West has taken a much more practical approach.
-The fact that the early church was not highly centralized.
-Canonization of saints in the early church resembles the Orthodox method and being more local and grassroots as opposed to the highly structured and legal approach in Catholicism.
-Fasting has gone by the wayside.
-In the east, monasticism and the laity are not really on two seperate tracks so to speak as they are in Catholicism. Most of the prayers in my prayer book are taken directly from monastic and liturgical prayers. The laity and monastics all participate in liturgical prayer together.
These are what I can think of right off the top of my head. I will not discuss the papacy or the filioque. There is so much debate about what this father said about this and this council said about that, and da da da that I truly believe this will have to be an act of faith from either party. I do not believe one can prove either position form history or scripture. Both traditions have good arguments and if that were not the case, good-willed people would not spend hours upon hours in torment trying to figure the question out. It comes done to faith and not the intellect as far as the papacy goes, imho.
Again, this is not a polemic. It is a sincere individual seeking for the truth. My soul is in utter torment and all I want is to find the truth and be at peace.
a fellow confused Orthodox Christian just seeking for the truth and wanting to find peace for my family and me
I won’t attempt to address all of your points - I’ll leave that to my betters…but I do have a few thoughts.
*Infants not receiving the Eucharist *- this is a matter of discipline, not doctrine, and the Catholic Church certainly does practice communing infants in the various Eastern Catholic Churches
Receiving the Eucharist before being Chrismated - this was a mistake that is slowly being corrected… a number of bishops in the Latin Church have already “corrected” the order in which children receive the sacraments. The Holy Father has also clarified that baptism, confirmation, eucharist is the correct order. When an adult is received into the Catholic Church, he is always received by the three sacraments in the correct traditional order. The Eastern Catholic Churches have also maintained the traditional order.
-The oversimplification of various prayers and actions in the liturgy - scholars argue that the ancient Roman liturgy actually was quite simplistic compared to most of the Eastern liturgies we see today. The Latin tradition is quite diverse, but certain strains of it have always been quite austere. Take the Franciscan tradition for example - their tradition is very austere, yet reverent. In fact, St. Francis forbid the use of Gregorian chant, introducing a simpler form instead. The Catholic Church, long before the East-West schism, always recognized a wide legitimate diversity when it comes to liturgy and local traditions. That being said, there is a strong movement in the Latin Church right now to restore what has been lost since the reforms of the 1960s and 70s…our Holy Father calls it the “reform of the reform.” In my own home archdiocese, we are seeing more parishes that incorporate chant, incense, latin, and other traditional elements into the liturgy. Younger Latin priests also tend to be more “traditional” when it comes to the liturgy. When I was in Rome, the masses were out of this world - at least as elaborate, if not more so, than any Byzantine liturgy I’ve seen. Do you think that the Byzantine divine liturgy, as seen today, was celebrated in the exact same way 1500 years ago? It has undergone considerable development as well.
General comment: If you study history more carefully, you’ll note that the Orthodox have also had questionable practices at various points in time which were later corrected. The Church is protected by Christ from falling (the gates of Hades will not prevail…), but that doesn’t mean that the leadership can’t make mistakes in matters of discipline/practice…the Church is only “infallible” in matters of faith. Take for example the Greek Orthodox practice of selling certificates of absolution (an abuse akin to the medieval Latin selling of indulgences) in the 16th/17th centuries (or about then - can’t remember the exact time frame). Look at the Pharisees in the Gospels - they imposed all sorts of corrupt practices and disciplines on the Jewish faithful - that is, they abused their disciplinary authority, yet Jesus clearly testifies that their teaching authority remained. In Matthew 23:1-2 Jesus commands his disciples to obey the Pharisees for they “sit on the chair of Moses”. The same applies to our bishops.
This is a lot to handle through a forum. If you PM me we can email about it, or you can message me through my Parish FB page in my signature and we can talk about it more there too.
- The fact that there are very few icons in Catholicism and there is an entire Ecumenical council that is dedicated to venerating icons - the Council defended the practice of venerating icons. It did not in any way mandate that the cult of icons be fully embraced throughout the Church in the same sense that it was in the Byzantine East. Do you have any evidence that the Latin Church was as attached to icons prior to the schism as the Byzantine East is now? That being said, I think you are only looking at Latin Catholicism as practiced in certain regions. Here in the Dominican Republic, where I am currently living, there is a famous icon of the Theotokos known as Nuestra Senora de Altagracia - Our Lady of High Grace…this icon is found in every parish throughout the country, and the feast dedicated to Our Lady of High Grace is a national holiday in which the icon is processed throughout the streets. The original came from Spain around the year 1500 and many miracles have been attributed to it. The same could be said of the Mexican practice in regards to the icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (Note: I realize that these aren’t “icons” in the Byzantine sense - but they are certainly the Latin equivalent).
5)* Overall, the East has maintained more of a mystical approach to the faith whereas the West has taken a much more practical approach* - This is a common stereotype. I reject it. Latin theology is far more diverse and nuanced than outsiders seem to think. The Latin Church is vast and there are many distinct theological/devotional traditions within the Latin Church. Read St. Teresa de Avila or St. John of the Cross and tell me that Latin theology isn’t mystical. Latin theology isn’t limited to St. Thomas Aquinas - in fact, a Carmelite or Fransican would have little reason to study him at all. That being said, I don’t think even St. Thomas was as “practical” or “non-mystical” as some like to think.
It seems all of your objections would be answered by entering an Eastern Catholic Church.
Where is your Spiritual Father in all of this? Where is your priest? Have you spoken with him?
Just want to applaud TWF’s posts, and agree that an Eastern Catholic Church sounds perfect for you.
Read “The Russian Church and the Papacy” by Vladimir Soloviev or the life of Blessed Leonid Feodorov. Also there is a book called Patriarch Josef Slipyj: Confessor Between East and West that is also very good. Patriarch Slipyj was a Thomist and did not see Thomism as conflicting with the East.
By the way, judging the truth by saying my life was better when I was Orthodox or Catholic or vice versa is very subjective. Feelings are not facts. They can be useful but they are not facts.
I would hesitate to quickly conclude “Eastern Catholicism is the answer”, unless this is a very careful analysis of the situation. The difference between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy (and Eastern Catholicism) is not a checklist of beliefs, but a complete mindset.
Greek, I am Orthodox. I started as a Roman Catholic and it took me two years to convert, during which time I switched back and forth at least twice. What finally made me decide to complete the conversion to the Orthodoxy (along with the immense grace of God) was the fact that I couldn’t put up with the Western mindset any longer. The legalistic approach you mention in Catholicism is something which I will never miss. An orthodox Mother Superior (who is also a convert from the Catholic Church) said to me once, “I do believe Orthodoxy is a step beyond Catholicism, in that Orthodoxy doesn’t seek to constantly define, define, define.” Some things in Orthodoxy remain holy mysteries - which is why you mentioned Orthodoxy is more mystical than Catholicism.
Really? How is that?
His objections are primarily against Latin practices and expresions
-Infants not receiving the Eucharist (Applies to Latins not Eastern Catholics)
-Receiving the Eucharist before being Chrismated (Applies to Latins not Eastern Catholics)
-The fact that there are very few icons in Catholicism (Applies to Latins not Eastern Catholics)
-Mistranslations of the vulgate to support an Augustinian view of Original Sin (Applies to Latins not Eastern Catholics)
-The over emphasis on the law and rampant legalism that specifically affected the West before Vatican II (Applies to Latins not Eastern Catholics)
-Overall, the East has maintained more of a mystical approach to the faith whereas the West has taken a much more practical approach (Applies to Latins not Eastern Catholics)
-The fact that the early church was not highly centralized (Applies to Latins not Eastern Catholics)
-Canonization of saints in the early church resembles the Orthodox method and being more local and grassroots as opposed to the highly structured and legal approach in Catholicism (Applies to Latins not Eastern Catholics)
-Fasting has gone by the wayside (Applies to Latins not Eastern Catholics)
-In the east, monasticism and the laity are not really on two seperate tracks so to speak as they are in Catholicism. (Applies to Latins not Eastern Catholics)
Each of these points for the Orthodox are also in the Eastern Catholic Churches
And yet the Orthodox are not immune from the need to “define, define, define”. There are, after all, Orthodox books, catechisms, and the wonderful and VERY detailed “Orthodox Study Bible”.
And is that really such a bad thing? After all, we as human beings in a world full of constant barrages of information (and so much of it MISinformation) NEED to know what the correct definitions are, to help us sort out the Truth.
I love the Orthodox Church and we often attend Vespers and other services there. But the Byzantine Church we belong to is just … home. Which is what a proper church should be.
Re: the OP’s list of concerns, I would only add this: you should NOT convert to the Orthodox Church primarily because you don’t like certain things (a lot of them in the past) about the Catholic Church. Your list of reasons says a whole lot that’s negative about Western Catholicism but almost nothing positive about Eastern Orthodoxy, and it should be the other way around.
And just wanted to add - I found a GREAT blog post at Eastern Catholic Spiritual Renewal which says it way better than me!!:
“For those that believe the other church is GREATER or that the grass is greener on the other side I would invite you to look at what makes you what you are. A church is GREATEST where you share the life that’s within you and the grass is greenest where you water it. There is no need to burn the bridges that brought you to where you are today. For just as you were then so you are now. The only thing that brings about a greater experience of God is your repentance.”
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