Question for Catholic/Orthodox Converts

Greetings all! I have been considering Catholicism and Eastern/Oriental Orthodoxy for a while, and I wanted to pick some brains (figuratively, of course).

For those of you who are converts, what was it that finally pushed you to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church - or with the Orthodox Church, for that matter?

I have spent much time poring over Scripture, the writings of the Fathers, the ecumenical councils, studies of Christian history, etc. It seems to me that ultimately, if one is determined enough, one can find the arguments/justification required to substantiate whatever theological positions he/she might desire to validate regarding Catholicism vs. Orthodoxy.

“Opposed to the papacy? Well, here’s the Formula of Hormisdas!”

"Opposed to filioque? Well, here’s Aquinas’s defense from the Summa."

“Opposed to the Immaculate Conception? St. Gregory Nazianzen (among others) speaks of something much like it.”

For those of you who have wrestled with this topic and with questions such as these, what was it that finally granted you inner peace about these issues? It’s so easy to substantiate either side of this conflict from the Tradition - what was it that finally quelled your doubts and settled your heart and mind? Any advice would be most greatly appreciated! Thank you, and God bless!

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Basically, it was the Eucharist. The real presence in the Eucharist, number one. Number two, the priests. Catholic priests are wonderful. Their complete dedication to the Church is awesome.

I’ve been Catholic for three years now. Loving my Catholic life and Catholic faith.

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Regarding Filioque, I found St. Photios’ argument convincing and solid. Here is part of it (full treatise in “On the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit”):

“And why should the Holy Spirit proceed from the Son as well as from the Father? For if His procession from the Father is perfect and complete - and it is perfect, because He is perfect God from perfect God - then why is there also a procession from the Son? The Son, moreover, cannot serve as an intermediary between the Father and the Spirit because the Spirit is not a property of the Son. If two principles, two sources, exist in the Divinity, then the unity of the Divinity would be destroyed… If the Father is the source of the Son, who is the second source of the Spirit, then the Father is both the immediate and mediated source of the Holy Spirit!”

Thanks for the response, ReaderT.

I will say that I find the Orthodox opposition to the filioque clause to be quite well founded.

It seems that the filioque is often defended on the grounds that all that the Father has has been given to the Son. But of course, statements such as these refer to the Son’s consubstantiality; thus the procession of the Holy Spirit becomes an essential property instead of a hypostatic one, meaning that the Holy Spirit has to generate Himself in order to be fully divine. That, or you’d have to introduce a fourth hypostasis into the Trinity and make it a quaternity, and then this fourth hypostasis would need to generate a divine hypostasis, etc. ad infinitum. It seems obvious that this line or reasoning collapses the distinction between nature and hypostasis.

And, generally, the witness of the Church of the first millennium is way more forgiving to Orthodoxy than it is to Catholicism.

However, to enter into full communion with the Orthodox Church at this point in history, one first has to identify just where/what exactly the Orthodox Church is.

Assuming Chalcedonian Christology to be the Apostolic doctrine (which I believe it is), one is still left with a decision between two communions: those autocephalous churches still in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and those autocephalous churches that are not.

I have heard many Orthodox apologists try to downplay this current schism by reducing it to a matter of politics rather than theology, but nevertheless a schism is a schism. Without intercommunion, there is no Christian unity. And, it seems to me that this current situation is largely due to the way in which the Orthodox Church is structured - at least with Catholicism, there’s a simple visible principle of unity (in theory, anyways).

So then, to become Orthodox in the 21st century is to ultimately make a decision based on politics - it is incumbent upon the catechumen to acquaint himself/herself with the geopolitical drama of the Ukraine situation and decide accordingly. For me, it is impossible to have peace of mind/soul about this.

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I happen to respectfully disagree. What we should separate is notions about Filioque and what it truly teaches. Filioque teaches that Holy Spirit comes from the Father through the Son, not that Holy Spirit comes from Father and the Son equally. Latin word for “proceeds” got mistranslated to the Greek (or rather, Latin translation allowed to Filioque).

You can find excellent quotes from Church Fathers here.

Also, Oriental Orthodoxy as such does not have problems with Filioque theology at large because indeed, Athanasius of Alexandria for example held it to be true. When translated to their language, Filioque does not sound heretical. In Greek, it does (which is why not even Catholic Church uses Filioque in Greek).

What is much more important at the present moment when even most Orthodox experts say that Filioque is matter of semantics (prime example being Bishop Kallistos Ware who previously even wrote book against Filioque but later changed his mind), is whether or not addition of Filioque to Creed was justified action. This boils down to independence of each Church, because for example Armenian Church used different Creed than rest of the world and no one had problem with it ever. Oriental Orthodoxy still has no problem with it. This shows that Creed did not need to be uniform in entire world and each Church making up large Church could just provide Creed they found necessary for well-being of souls entrusted to Her.

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At the very simplest level, you can walk into a Catholic church in any country and attend Mass celebrated in any language, and you’re still in the the Catholic Church. There’s nothing that has been left unsettled or pending negotiations.

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I understand. From my perspective, we are actually all still in Communion: Russia is in communion with the OCA / the Romanians / Bulgarians / Georgians / Alexandrians etc., who in turn are all in communion with the Greeks. I see it like a cut on the body rather than a full-on amputation: the body is still contiguous, though the wound of course still needs addressing. There have been dozens of calls for the Primates of the Churches to get together and resolve it.

It is definitely unfortunate, but situations like this do flare up from time to time and are always resolved.

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Converted to Catholicism in 1992, at age 25.

I became convinced of the authority of the
pope and the bishops in union with him. Everything else flows from there. Ultimately Acts 15, the council of Jerusalem.

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I converted to Orthodoxy from Anglicanism on Nativity 2016.

For me, although I agonized over the question of the Great Schism, and which side most preserved the Apostolic Faith, every time I tried to visit a Catholic Church, the door was providentially locked. I had already had contact with an Orthodox Priest and when I tried the doors of an Orthodox Church one afternoon, they were unlocked, and I had an experience of the presence of God dwelling in the temple…

Now four years in, my mind and heart are once more struggling to remain Orthodox and double-guessing whether I made the right decision or not, but for now I cannot become Catholic because of Vatican II and the rupture in liturgical tradition as well as the formation of doctrine contrary to the previous Councils and the perennial Magisterium. So although I sympathize with your plight as seeing the Orthodox Church as divided (we pray for all schisms to cease) know that in her deep heart, the Orthodox Church preserves, is animated and vivified by the ancient Apostolic Spirit that I have only found in the pre-Vatican II Roman Church and her saints.

Maybe you should attend a FSSP/TLM for a few Sundays and then attend Orthodox Divine Liturgy for a few Sundays and make a decision based upon your experience.

May God illumine your path unto salvation.

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Thanks for the heartfelt response, and congratulations on taking that crucial step!

You say that you had “an experience of the presence of God dwelling in the temple” - could you elaborate on that? I personally have always immediately dismissed emotional responses in myself as subjective and prone to misinterpretation, so it’s hard for me to trust feelings of God’s presence when I do encounter them. Ironically enough, it is the peace that comes from God’s presence alone that must ultimately verify the truth of the Church in one’s life - beyond objective and intellectual reasoning, the one thing Satan cannot emulate is the peace of the Holy Spirit (stole that line, but I think it’s true).

I can empathize with your struggles concerning certain sections of the Vatican II documents and the liturgical changes of the Roman rite. Funnily enough, my first experience of a Roman Catholic mass after years of having not attended one was the Tridentine Rite at St. John Cantius Church in Chicago, IL. If you are familiar with this church, then you know that I was spoiled, haha. I had a crush on a catechumen there, and she brought me to the Tridentine Rite. After that, once I saw what 95% of masses ACTUALLY looked like (Novus Ordo), it was a bit of a letdown.

But again, for me it’s difficult to place too much emphasis on aesthetics. I have been fortunate enough to attend Coptic liturgies at several monasteries in Egypt, and if I had things my way (aesthetically, I mean), that’s where I’d be. The beauty of that liturgy, the hymnography, the iconography, the vestments, the architecture, the iconostasis, the tremendous influence of the Alexandrian Fathers, etc. But obviously, I must accept Chalcedon, and so tragically enough, my personal preference for the Coptic rite is ultimately irrelevant to the question.

So, I bring that frame of mind into the discernment process when comparing Orthodoxy and Catholicism. Sure, I love the Byzantine rite, and I really wish the Tridentine Rite was still the standard in the Roman Catholic Church. But a part of me almost thinks, “look, it’s not about ME it’s about God. And, if the Novus Ordo is the most common rite of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, who am I to protest? Maybe I’m just too prideful, thinking I’m too good or I’ve read too much theology to attend the Novus Ordo. I need to learn humility.”

Alas, it’s a tough call. I just think there should be something concrete, something firm, something immovable upon which to make this decision. Not my tastes in liturgy, not my dislike of Scholastic theology, not my confusion over the filioque…a firm “rock,” upon which the Church is built - against which the gates of Hell shall never prevail wink, wink :slight_smile:

Enough bloviating for now, but if you’d be so kind, could you please share how you came to feel God’s presence in your own journey of faith?

Again, thanks for your response! God bless.

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Solid reason. It’s the most compelling reason in favor of Catholicism, me thinks.

I wish I could just have the theology of the Orthodox Church with the ecclesiology of the Roman Catholic Church heavy sigh

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Hey thanks for the great perspective and solid information! I’ll have to do a bit more digging along those lines and re-evaluate. I was under the impression that the traditional doctrine of the filioque was that the hypostasis of the Father and the hypostasis of the Son are co-causes/co-generators of the hypostasis of the Holy Spirit.

Amen to that! The theology of Orthodoxy + the ecclesiology of Catholicism = perfection.

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Yes.

This was beyond emotional response, it was the heart KNOWING, that the Presence of God was manifest, dwelling in that Orthodox Church.

I was actually with my Anglican (ACNA) priest, and we were visiting on our way through town, no services were being held as it was mid-afternoon before Vespers. The doors were unlocked and a lone iconographer was high up in scaffolding, painting frescos. Fr. M. (my Anglican priest) and I walked through the nave and stood in front of the Royal Doors, in front of the solea, making the sign of the cross (the Orthodox way, right to left) and bowing at the waist. Immediately upon rising from the bow, a sense of holiness swept over me like I have never felt before in my entire life, yet with that sense of holiness was the sense of utter unworthiness to be in the presence of He Who Dwells in that place. I looked at my Anglican priest, and said, “We gotta get out of here,” and we beat a hasty retreat to the car. The rest of the day I was filled with indescribable joy, lightness of being, thanksgiving towards God, a hunger for prayer and the desire to learn everything I could about Orthodoxy.

That encounter with the Living God of Orthodoxy has changed my life.

No mere emotionalism could have had such lasting effect, as I had just begun to swim out of the rampant emotional-sentimentalism of the non-denominational, evangelical lifestyle, and could sense that this apprehension of God was not the same as the Christian rock fueled “moments of the spirit”.

How do I know that this was from God and not the evil one, or my own mind? The evil one, according to the ascetic tradition of the Orthodox Church will never inspire the fear of the Lord in a soul, but the Holy Angels will. The fruits of such an experience were the beginning of true repentance, of my taking stock in the rubble of my life and a real yearning for change of direction. A fallen mind, wedded to the sweet sickness of sin does not cause these sort of upward movements of the soul in such a radical way, therefore I must conclude that the mercy of God came upon me in that moment.

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If you enter Holy Orthodoxy, you should know that you are entering a spiritual arena. The peace of the Holy Spirit does not come easily, but is given after a great spiritual battle, or precedes it, to let the soul know that it is not abandoned by God before it enters the fight. There is also beginner’s grace, and the honeymoon period, which for some is longer than others.

The best test of the truth I have found is the Lords saying, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” The fruits of the Orthodox ascetical-mystical life, which every Orthodox Christian is called to participate in, are in their maturity (the Orthodox saints) the fruits of the Holy Spirit as exhibited in the early Apostolic Christians. For me, the Orthodox have best preserved this Apostolic Spirit that has mostly evaporated out of the Catholic Church as of late, and have also most clearly preserved their ancient liturgical patrimony, patristic mindset and Christian freedom.

As much as I dearly love the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church, and can see the that in her deep heart she retains the Apostolic Faith, the current situation within Catholicism is too much for my weak soul to bear. My faith would not survive, barring a miracle, even in traditionalist Catholicism, alas.

I suffer from the same entanglement. :smile:

Have you investigated the Coptic Catholic Church? It is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See…I don’t know if there are any parishes near where you live, but it might be worth exploring.

Amen. And finding where God has called you for your salvation.

Amen. Amen. Amen.

Well, my brother it seems your mind and heart are nearly made up. :wink:

My final plug for a trial of Orthodoxy: come and see! Orthodoxy is inherently experiential, you have to enter into her life to know it.

Also, if you like the TLM there are Western Rite Orthodox parishes.

Thank you for your conversation. May God bless and save you.

Pray for me.

Have you heard about Eastern Catholics? They are Catholics in communion with Pope, but they preserve their own theological and liturgical Tradition that is not contrary to any other Tradition in the Universal Church. Byzantine Catholics have Eastern Orthodox spirituality but are united with Catholic Church and Pope. Oriental Catholics have Oriental Orthodox spirituality but are united with Catholic Church and the Pope. For example they do not say Filioque and hold Eastern emphasis on Trinity (but they do not reject Filioque as a doctrine it just isn’t part of their tradition).

So was I once. It’s common misconception and sadly leads to many misunderstandings. Filioque is quite extensive controversy that contains two problems of ecclesiology and also theology- which makes it more complex but at the end of the day sources are there. I am always glad to help and also glad to learn.

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For me the above YouTube Video says it all. The Catholic church is the church founded by Christ.

I guess my opposition to the filioque is coming, in large part, from how the doctrine was defined at Florence. The council denies two spirations, but nevertheless insists that the essence and subsistence of the Holy Spirit are caused/spirated from the Son in the same way in which they are caused/spirated from the Father:

“In the name of the holy Trinity, Father, Son and holy Spirit, we define, with the approval of this holy universal council of Florence, that the following truth of faith shall be believed and accepted by all Christians and thus shall all profess it: that the holy Spirit is eternally from the Father and the Son, and has his essence and his subsistent being from the Father together with the Son, and proceeds from both eternally as from one principle and a single spiration. We declare that when holy doctors and fathers say that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, this bears the sense that thereby also the Son should be signified, according to the Greeks indeed as cause, and according to the Latins as principle of the subsistence of the holy Spirit, just like the Father.

Embarrassingly enough, the text immortalizes the Greeks’ seeming agreement to this interpretation of the filioque, but alas the Orthodox today consistently deny that what took place at Florence was an authentic agreement/union.

It also seems that the justification for the filioque rests upon a conflation of essential properties of the Godhead with hypostatic properties. Again, from Florence:

And since the Father gave to his only-begotten Son in begetting him everything the Father has, except to be the Father, so the Son has eternally from the Father, by whom he was eternally begotten, this also, namely that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.

The language here makes procession of the Holy Spirit an essential property of Divinity rather than the hypostatic property of the Father as monarchia. However, this line of justification would lead to the Holy Spirit spirating Himself.

Yes, I am aware that these exist - alas, there are none nearby heavy sigh

Also, it reminds me of something I once heard a Western Coptic convert say. When asked about his decision to join the Coptic Church as opposed to, say, the Ethiopian or the Russian or the Greek, he said that Orthodoxy came in all sorts of different “flavors,” and that the flavored he liked the best was Coptic, lol :sweat_smile: Never mind the Christological controversy or anything…

As a potential convert to Catholicism, it seems that choosing one rite over another would truly be like picking between different “flavors,” which strikes me as just all too ego-centered and individualistic. If I did become Catholic, I’d almost want to attend the Novus Ordo as a kind of show of solidarity with the large majority of the Church - in a way saying, “there’s nothing to hide here, no problems to cover up in the post Vatican II liturgical tradition.”

Well, I understand you but in the end Universality of the Church exists for exactly this reason. Not only can you choose any Rite, you can choose any private devotion and one of many paths to go while being inside the Church. Do you know main problem Church had with communist ideology? IIRC it was that they took people as groups and not individuals. Church sees it’s members as united in Church but they are each individual people with all their different paths, talents and approaches. Yet there is real unity, not a shallow one.

When I was at university, during my first semester I attended almost exclusively Byzantine Rite Liturgies. It wasn’t because I would dislike Latin Rite Masses or Priest or anything (actually local Priests are all amazing people). It was because I felt that such approach was what I needed at the time. Now I attend Novus Ordo Masses, but occasionally I went to Tridentine Mass too. I really like how diverse yet united Church is.

Well that’s one way to do it. Priest who celebrated Tridentine Mass actually had homily on how Novus Ordo is great once :smiley: yes, there are people who spread disunity but there would be those no matter which Rite or Liturgy there was.

Well that’s sad. I am very intrigued by Maronite Spirituality and I am in love with their Church… but there are none nearby either. Technically you can practice Eastern Spirituality with Latin Rite Masses too… there are no contradictions. But then again, Liturgy is pinnacle of Christian Life and as such it would be better to live the Rite fully and not partially.

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