ASK FATHER: Things are bad in the liberal Catholic Church. Can I become Orthodox?

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

I’ve tried for many years to stay in the church but simply things get worse here, with the impositions of liberal catholics and bishops who prefer a round of applause rather than defend our faith. I have to ask you father:

under those circumstances is valid to leave the catholic church and embrace the orthodox faith; or its just another apostasy case with a fancy excuse.

It sounds like a fancy excuse to me.  But let’s make some distinctions.

It’s not quite apostasy.  Apostasy requires the rejection of the Christian faith.  However, it certainly is schism, and it is unwarranted.

“Things are bad in the Church” is a statement that could be made by a person today, or a Catholic dealing with Communist infiltration into the Church in 1950’s Poland, or someone with a Modernist pastor in Antwerp in 1910, or someone struggling against a Gallican pastor in 19th century France, or a Catholic in Germany or England during the time of the Reformation, or a peasant in Italy in the 14th century with an absentee bishop unwilling to discipline a corrupt pastor, or a 10th century priest in Rome dealing with murderous and moral bankrupt popes, or an 8th century artist with an iconoclast pastor, or a 4th century Catholic with an Arian bishop, or a 1st century apostle dealing with an unruly Corinthian congregation.

The answer is not, nor has it ever been, to break away from the Church.

The answer is to become more holy.

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52 Responses to ASK FATHER: Things are bad in the liberal Catholic Church. Can I become Orthodox?

  1. Swanson says:

    We need good people to STAY in the church. Don’t give up!

  2. SimonDodd says:

    FWIW, Lumen gentium says that whoever, “knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.”

  3. liebemama says:

    Oh my! Yes! “To become more holy”
    This is what I needed to hear today. Thank you!

  4. ASPM Sem says:

    The orthodox have their own troubles. Divorce and remarriage, contraception, etc are all generally allowed.

  5. SimonDodd says:

    Someone asked me a while ago “what do you like about being Catholic?” I answered “not a single thing.” Father’s correspondent is right, things are awful in the Church. I can’t give you anything to recommend it, it’s an ugly, unpleasant business. But, I said, the Church makes certain truth-claims, and I believe that those claims are true. And that’s enough. What the hell does it matter what I like? Catholicism is a religion, not a bar or a social club. You don’t enter or remain in a religion because you like it, you do so because it what it says is true. Does the fact that the Church is an ugly, unpleasant business right now falsify those truth claims? Nope. Do it even call them into question? Nope. So why isn’t that the end of the matter?

  6. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    The only thing I would have added to Pater’s response is: “Period. End of discussion. Next question.”

  7. ChrisRawlings says:

    Brilliantly said.

    Besides, have the sympathizers of Orthodoxy really looked at Orthodoxy? So many of the concerns that people have with moral and ecclesial compromise in contemporary Catholicism have long been cemented structurally within Orthodoxy (i.e. contraception, decentralized ecclesial power, etc.).

    When the waters get choppy you must fix your eyes on Christ. Read the passage, make your act of faith, and sanctify yourself, your family, and your community. Then you won’t have enough time left to wring your hands over the meaty reports coming out of Rome.

  8. Bruce says:

    The Church needs more Saints!
    Which is what Fr. Z said.
    This Lent is another great opportunity to become more holy.

    “God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.”
    ? Søren Kierkegaard, The Journals of Kierkegaard

  9. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Thanks for posting this. I have faced this temptation too.

  10. Chumly says:

    Hi Fr, I understand that we must all try to become more holy. I wonder, however, what happens if the church changes the definition of what it means to be holy. We have had an understanding of what holy means for a long time but with the approaching synod that definition may change. If for example, the Pope permits people who are divorced to receive communion (I know it is more complicated than that), the Spirit of the Synod will lead to at least a de facto change in church teaching. If this happens, how do I know what it means to be holy? Didn’t Augustine say that we know certain things because the church says it to be so? What if the church no longer says it is so? Do we side with the present magisterium or with tradition? If the magisterium is clearly in error do we go elsewhere?

  11. Uxixu says:

    With the FSSP and ICKSP there would never be any reason for that. Even beyond them, there’s still the SSPX for all it’s problems still has a western heritage. I find much to admire in the Eastern rites, particularly in the Eastern Catholics more so than the Orthodox schimastics, but their patriomony is ultimately not ours and you don’t need to abandon the Latin Fathers to reclaim Catholic orthodoxy. Penance, prayer, and offer it up.

    Schism begets schism as we’ve seen repeatedly over the millennia. We saw it in the East (most manifest as ‘autocephaly’), the fracturing of the protestant heretics, and we see it even with the SSPX (to SSPV to innumerable sedevacantist fringe groups).

    “For it is normally necessary to salvation to hold the Catholic faith; and to believe in Catholic doctrines without believing in the existence of that infallible authority which guarantees them all is to hold, not the Catholic faith, but a series of speculative opinions. ” — Msgr. Ronald Knox, The Belief of Catholics

  12. kimberley jean says:

    The media doesn’t care about the Orthodox so we never hear anything bad about them but the grass is not any greener there. Orthodoxy looks better–any Orthodox priest who shows up at church acting like Elton John would be chased out by the parishioners but they have scandals too.

  13. Sonshine135 says:

    I think the biggest shame in the post above isn’t that the poster is looking to move to the Orthodox Church; rather, it is that the poster has been so battered in his/her own church that they are thinking the only option is to change to the Orthodox Church. How unfortunate and sad this is.

    Between this and the last post, has today turned into Totalitarianism Tuesday?

  14. Matthew Gaul says:

    All of the Fathers are the patrimony of all Catholics. There is not some firewall between East and West, as much as some folks on both sides would like that. The terms East and West are broad catch-alls, and becoming increasingly irrelevant misnomers.

    If the Latin or Greek Catholic churches, in some fit of parochialism, were to purge all influence from the other, the remaining rump of a church would be very myopic indeed.

    The Greek Catholics at least can say that they are protecting the patrimony of a nano-micro-minority. Even if they go overboard about it now and again.

    The idea that the Latin Church is somehow “our” church distresses me. All the Catholic churches have a mission for the whole world. The popes have said it over and over. There is no room for a kind of “ritual nativism” in the faith.

  15. Uxixu says:

    Absolutely. The implicit context, remember, was a Roman Catholic turning to the schismatic eastern rites in response to current events. As Father illustrates, it’s not a new phenomenon. That said, Catholics generally have a greater appreciation Greek and the Greek Fathers far more than schismatics have for the Latin Fathers. For numerous reason, in the Eastern schismatics, you will find little to no appreciation of say, St. Augustine, to say nothing of the last millennia of Catholic saints from Pope St. Nicholas to St. Thomas Aquinas all the way through St. Pius X, of course. Converting to Orthodoxy would not allow much room to venerate any of them, nor the Catholic faith they confessed.

  16. CatholicMD says:

    I have faced this temptation since I entered the Catholic Church over 10 years ago after leaving the shipwreck that is the Episcopal “Church”. When I converted I actually “wanted” to become Orthodox but I was intellectually convinced of the necessity of the Papacy and by the heroic witness of St. John Paul II.

    What I have learned since March 13, 2013 is that most of the Catholic hierarchy are not much different than the Episcopalians (other than having worse taste when it comes to liturgy). It seems that the majority of heterodox liberals just kept their mouths shut during the last 2 pontificates and now are basking in their glory. The illusion that things were getting better I’m starting to feel was just that. I read about the new cardinals that were just appointed and their many backgrounds and priorities. I never heard one mention SALVATION.

    It seems despite the Holy Father’s words to the contrary the vast majority of those in the hierarchy would like to make the Church a glorified NGO. Pope Francis can say he rejects this all he wants but when all we hear from Rome is blathering about economics, poverty, climate change, positive aspects of homosexual relationships, immigration, etc. it’s hard to take that claim seriously.

  17. Traductora says:

    Orthodoxy looks great…from the outside. It probably has the world’s most beautiful liturgy, and even at its peak, I don’t think the Roman rite could surpass it, not only in the ritual practice, but in things like the structure of the hours, the readings, etc. It literally would make you weep from its sheer beauty.

    But in practice, there is no moral guidance, no intellectual engagement with the big world, no church life (except in modern convert parishes – otherwise, it was like the old Catholic immigrant parishes, entirely dependent on a tiny culture where religion was simply one factor in their adhesion). There’s also still a lot of hostility towards converts.

    And believe me, the Orthodox Church (including the OCA, Orthodox Church in America) had some major scandals, both financial and moral, including at the highest levels. While the OCA has dealt with these things, which included removing a Metropolitan, and I think has cleaned up its act, it was for a long time perceived as very gay-friendly, or at any rate not very demanding in the area of sexual morality. The parish clergy is married (bishops are not), but there are very real problems with this. The stress on the family of married clergy is enormous and you end up seeing a lot of very unedifying family situations among the clergy and their wives and children. If you’re Catholic, you may find this difficult.

    Finally, one of the big reasons for existence of the Orthodox Church is its hostility to “Rome.” This is not expressed doctrinally, because it’s really just a serious cultural prejudice, and Orthodox converts end up defining themselves as “not Catholic.”

    Stick it out, find some very conservative group and hang out there, or just keep up your reading and praying and contact with Tradition and slog ahead. Orthodoxy is not the solution.

  18. anilwang says:

    The Orthodox have their own issues, which you’ll find out soon enough after being in Orthodox culture a while. Read up on reverts from the Orthodox faith to get some ideas, but you won’t really understand until you get emotionally invested in a particular patriarchate truly try to make it work. For the record, one practical issue for English speakers is that it’s much harder to catechize your family since there are so few Orthodox resources in English. The bulk of the resources are either Catholic or Protestant. It’s hard enough to keep your family Catholic that you don’t need to add this, and ethnic chauvinism, anti-Papism, and Orthodox intrigue (read up on how Metropolitan Jonah was “democratically” and how different Orthodox Churches are not in communion because of personal resentments of the Patriarchs) and social marginalization to the mix (it’s almost certain your kids will marry non-Orthodox).

    But there is no reason go that far to find the true faith. As a Catholic you can also attend the Latin Mass in a local parish near you, dedicated FSSP masses, Eastern Catholic Masses, Opus Dei masses, and even Anglican Ordinariate masses. All are likely more traditionally orthodox than a typical Novus Ordo mass.

    To abandon the Catholic faith for the Orthodox when there are so many valid Catholic options is not only apostasy, it is disingenuously foolish.

  19. aquinas138 says:

    As someone who has often asked myself the same question as the original poster, I would say to the question that you should only become Orthodox if you are convinced that Orthodoxy is true; this means that you have come to believe that Roman Catholicism is false. There is no tip-toeing around this; many jurisdictions require that you publicly and explicitly repudiate “Latin errors” if you convert. If you are motivated by fleeing nonsense in the Roman Church, I am sorry to tell you that you will find nonsense in every Church and ecclesial community. The average Orthodox parish, in the main, has more reverent and “correct” liturgies than the average Roman parish, but they have some of the same problems with modernist clergy that Catholicism does, and many issues of their own.

    If you are serious about Orthodoxy, then you should know that, in general, Catholics are more positive about the Orthodox than the Orthodox are about Catholics. Though there are a number of Orthodox who do not axiomatically assume a simplistic “Roman = bad” attitude with Western devotions and liturgy, there are many who do, and there is a very strong tendency to believe “Orthodox = Byzantine”; Western-rite Orthodox communities are viewed with considerable suspicion in many quarters. The reasons behind these attitudes are usually more political than theological in origin, but the Orthodox do believe there are many more issues between our Churches than Catholics tend to. We usually point to the papacy and Filioque as if that exhausts the list, but besides historical issues (e.g., the Crusaders’ sack of Constantinople in 1204), Orthodox will point to many other “Roman errors”: mandatory celibacy, Eucharistic devotions, Purgatory, indulgences, the Immaculate Conception, the Augustinian view of Original Sin, a legalistic understanding of the Atonement and Redemption, making satisfaction for sins, mental images in prayer, the spouses as ministers of Matrimony, etc., etc. When they say that they consider Catholicism and Protestantism two sides of the same coin, they mean it.

    If there is anything to admire in Orthodoxy, and I do think there is a lot, I would point out how refreshing it is that so many of their hierarchs seem to draw conclusions from their true-Church claims; from their viewpoint, Catholics are, simply put, heretics. I happen not to agree with that statement, but I can appreciate their candor in saying it. To anyone asking themselves this very question, make sure you understand all the implications of what I’m saying: becoming Orthodox means you are no longer Catholic.

  20. juergensen says:

    . . . or a 33 A.D. disciple of Jesus wondering He could have chosen Judas?

  21. CatholicMD says:

    The points anilwang and aquinas138 are essentially the reasons I am Catholic and not Orthodox. When I am depressed and disillusioned by much of the nonsense coming from Rome they are important to remember. Fr Z is right; the solution is to become holy.

  22. TheAltarBoy says:

    If one takes a good look at Eastern orthodoxy; you can clearly see that they have their own problems. This will include the fact that they do not have a visible head; which is the very reason why they cannot even hold a council since many of the Bishops and Patriarchs disagree upon doctrine and how it is to be explained; such as their interpretation of the Toll Houses for example. Even though there are many others issues within their church (which is both schismatic & heretical) that I can address; it is necessarily to consider reflecting upon what Saint Ignatius of Antioch has to say on this issue.

    “Do not deceive yourselves, he who adheres to the author of a schism will not possess the kingdom of God.” [Epistle to the Philadelphians, 3 (CH 158)].

  23. Ad Orientem says:

    Speaking as an Orthodox Christian who has occasionally gotten queries from Roman Catholics on this subject, I always advise proceeding with the utmost caution for a number of reasons.

    Most Catholics who contemplate swimming the Bosporus do so under the impression that we are just Catholics sans the Pope and all the modernist idiocy plaguing the West and with the added benefit of nice liturgy. That’s not true. While it is true that we are very close on many, probably most subjects, there are profound differences. Some have aptly characterized the divide as an inch wide and a mile deep. (Not going any further down that road. This isn’t the time or place.)

    Speaking in general terms, while major problems, depending on what they are, MIGHT be an argument for leaving your current confession, they are almost never an argument for joining another one. One should only join a church if you are in full agreement with its doctrine. In my experience this is often not the case when we are talking about Roman Catholics converting into Orthodoxy (fully conceding exceptions). Additionally Orthodoxy is something that is often very challenging for those coming from a Western background on a number of levels, both spiritually and in terms of church discipline. All of which is reflected in the fact that among converts we have an attrition rate of around 50% over the first five years in the Church. That is VERY bad. I frequently tell inquirerss to proceed with caution as it is far better to remain outside the Church then to enter, only to leave later.

    From what I read above it doesn’t sound like this person has major doctrinal issues with Rome. Like so many, my guess is that the attraction is chiefly liturgical and a perceived escape from the silliness now pervasive in many parts of the Latin Church. Assuming that to be true, Fr. Z is absolutely correct in his reply.

    My own advice would be in much the same vein as that of some of the comments above. Presuming that the author of the original question has the misfortune of living in a diocese that is a total disaster, perhaps s/he should look for a parish of one of the many Eastern Rite churches that are in communion with Rome.

  24. JBS says:

    The two codes of canon law do a good job telling us what to do, the Catechism of the Catholic Church does a good job telling us what to believe, thousands of priests baptize babies, hear confessions, offer Mass, administer the Last Sacraments and bury the dead, countless laymen meditate with the Holy Rosary and strive to live virtuous lives with their spouses and children, and the blood of the martyrs continues to give witness to the Faith. It’s not perfect, but it’s Catholic. I’m staying put.

  25. Priam1184 says:

    That ‘things are bad in the Church’ bit was priceless Father. While I think there are differences between today and the times you described I also think that the sense of the thing is entirely true and should be posted inside every SSPX chapel in the world.

  26. mysticalrose says:

    “Things are bad in the Church” is a statement that could be made by a person today, or a Catholic dealing with Communist infiltration into the Church in 1950’s Poland, or someone with a Modernist pastor in Antwerp in 1910, or someone struggling against a Gallican pastor in 19th century France, or a Catholic in Germany or England during the time of the Reformation, or a peasant in Italy in the 14th century with an absentee bishop unwilling to discipline a corrupt pastor, or a 10th century priest in Rome dealing with murderous and moral bankrupt popes, or an 8th century artist with an iconoclast pastor, or a 4th century Catholic with an Arian bishop, or a 1st century apostle dealing with an unruly Corinthian congregation.

    Best. Response. Ehva.

  27. Bernard Brandt says:

    I will remind this audience, including the redoubtable Fr. Z, of the following words of the Vatican II statement on Ecumenism, Section 15:

    “These Churches, although separated from us, possess true sacraments, above all by apostolic succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are linked with us in closest intimacy. Therefore some worship in common (communicatio in sacris), given suitable circumstances and the approval of Church authority, is not only possible but to be encouraged.

    “Moreover, in the East are found the riches of those spiritual traditions which are given expression especially in monastic life. There from the glorious times of the holy Fathers, monastic spirituality flourished which, then later flowed over into the Western world, and there provided the source from which Latin monastic life took its rise and has drawn fresh vigor ever since. Catholics therefore are earnestly recommended to avail themselves of the spiritual riches of the Eastern Fathers which lift up the whole man to the contemplation of the divine.

    “The very rich liturgical and spiritual heritage of the Eastern Churches should be known, venerated, preserved and cherished by all. They must recognize that this is of supreme importance for the faithful preservation of the fullness of Christian tradition, and for bringing about reconciliation between Eastern and Western Christians.”

    That said, I would like to pose the following questions: “Schism or no, wouldn’t it be better for one to seek the sacraments and the depths of spiritual teaching among the Orthodox, than to be poorly fed at most RC Churches, where most priests cannot find true doctrine with both hands and a flashlight? Or where there is at least a one in three chance that the priest who is serving the Eucharist is actively gay, and has broken his vows?”

    It is one thing to say that we have had periods of heresy or laxity in the Church. That is quite different from an accurate assessment of the present age, which is a far darker age than the so-called ‘Dark Ages’. The Humanists of the Renaissance decried those times because they had ‘small latin and no greek’,. What are we to say of a time where most priests, yourself excepted, Fr. Z., have NO latin or greek, or much of ANY grounding in Catholic theology or philosophy. Or worse, where a large minority of those priests, if not the majority, have the tastes and inclinations towards vice which the Borgia Popes once had, and were rightly condemned for.

  28. GreggW says:

    “Someone asked me a while ago “what do you like about being Catholic?” I answered “not a single thing.”

    I can think of probably twenty things off the top of my head that I like about being Catholic, even amidst the trials and tribulations and other sanctifying opportunities of our day. I’m about to partake of one…I will be heading out to confession soon. I had to wait a while to gain the privilege of being able to go into the confessional, and I can’t imagine life without it. Later on tonight I get to partake of another glorious reality when I go to my holy hour at the local perpetual adoration chapel.

    Altar Boy: Let’s be kind to the Orthodox. They get a lot right and know how to maintain the faith amid trials. And an Ortho who knows his faith well once said that tollhouses are not a big deal. He thought that to pick out that disagreement is to pick at nits. We Catholics have our own nits they can pick.

  29. Ad Orientem says:

    Bernard Brandt
    First please see my comment a few spots up from yours. With regards…
    “These Churches, although separated from us, possess true sacraments, above all by apostolic succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are linked with us in closest intimacy. Therefore some worship in common (communicatio in sacris), given suitable circumstances and the approval of Church authority, is not only possible but to be encouraged. (emphasis mine)

    The part advocating communio in sacris is something that we Orthodox would strongly disagree with. To commune the Holy Mysteries of the Altar in any church is to publicly declare that we have no substantive disagreement on doctrinal issues with the bishop under whose jurisdiction that parish exists. It affirms Full Communion between your bishop and the one whose parish you are communing in and by extension their respective local churches. This is why we do not give Communion to the non-Orthodox. because to do so would in effect be lying to God. It is also why for an Orthodox Christian to knowingly commune in a non-Orthodox church is tantamount to self excommunication.

  30. The Professor says:

    I really appreciate your conclusion in this entry. I think too many people despair too quickly. I do it myself sometimes in personal scenarios. Yet, if the Church is truly what we believe it is, then we must have faith that Christ and the Holy Spirit will remain with us, even through great difficulty. We are facing scary times, but it is reassuring that people in times past have also faced scary times, and the Church endured.

  31. Luvadoxi says:

    I can identify with the original poster’s pain. I’ve been bruised and battered, as a convert, by the liturgical abuses and coldness of priests and parishioners. But I’ve lately also been battered by scrupulosity, so I’m in the “love tradition, don’t love Trads” camp. It’s sort of a pox on both your houses situation. I’ve been sorely tempted to move to the evangelical communions, because there I experience the mercy of Christ, hear about salvation, and learn Scripture (yes, including the whole salvation story). But no Eucharist. So I stay. But I’m not happy about it. How does one become holy if you are overwhelmed with bitterness and anger?

  32. Luvadoxi says:

    And yes, I’ve experienced anti-Catholicism. So….there doesn’t seem to be a good place for me.

  33. Phil_NL says:

    Frankly, what other people are doing should not make one bit of difference to whether one stays in the Church, or goes into schism. Regardless of whether those others are bishops or priests (or even a spouse, which would be a lot harder still). Your primary task is not to have an easy task here on earth, but to secure salvation. And there is nothing wrong with starting with your own salvation, which requires you to stay put in the catholic Church.

    Now I can imagine situations where the situation is so dire that one doesn’t want to darken the doorstep of your local parish. Fine, your blood pressure is a relevant consideration as well. Perhaps it’s even theoretically possible that the entire diocese is equally bad, that there are no alternatives (from FSSP to monastries) within any reasonable distance. In such a case I can even contemplate that you might feel you’re excused your Sunday obligation as attending might be more deterimental to your salvation than not attending. Probably not something that one would often see, but academically possible. Like being stuck on Antartica with certain jesuits-in-suits.

    Even then you still have no excuse for leaving the Church. You might be condemned to praying for better times on your own (though being so far from the sacraments has dangers of its own), but you must remain in it. Whatever the others in the Church are up to, however much of a mess they make of it, matters not one bit.

    Parish BBQs are a luxury, not a necessity. As for what’s necessary, that’s not to be found outside the Church anyway.

  34. ByzCath08 says:

    As someone who almost went this route, I’d say give alot of thought to it before you do it. For me, I had issues with divorce/remarriage, contraception acceptance and the thought of breaking communion with the successor to Peter.

    I feel for the person who asked this question. The state of the church in my local latin rite diocese is bad and I had enough of it when I was considering moving to Orthodoxy. I was fortunate to find an Eastern Catholic church in my town and started to attend back in 2008 and have never left. In 2013, my family made the canonical switch from the Roman church to the Byzantine Ruthenian church. I’d suggest looking for an Eastern Rite parish within a reasonable drive and try it out.

  35. yatzer says:

    Luvadoxi, in the early 1990s I thought and felt the same as you and wound up back with the Presbyterians for about 10 years. It was a congregation with wonderful people and great teaching (for the most part). Still, I couldn’t officially rejoin them because I really did believe in the Catholic Church. The disconnect finally became too much, and awed by the courage I saw in JPII in his final illness, I came back. I even found a faithful parish within driving distance. Don’t give up; you at least have the Web and Catholic radio and/or TV. Re-read Fr. Z’s response and take heart. Nobody promised us a rose garden.

  36. Matthew Gaul says:

    Luvadoxi I am very sorry. Prayers.

    Like ByzCath08 a local Eastern Catholic church saved me. I pray you find where God is calling you, wherever it may be.

  37. MrsMacD says:

    Ad Orientem, Catholics firmly believe that we can recieve the sacraments of Viaticum, Confession and Extreme Unction from an Orthodox priest, if there is no Catholic priest at hand, in danger of death. It’s a part of our Faith, not contrary to it.

    Father Z, this question begs another question, when your priest is a heretic, does that mean he’s not Catholic? And if he’s not Catholic, then does that mean we shouldn’t attend his Mass?

  38. William Tighe says:

    I wish to draw attention, in particular, to the comments of Bernard Brandt, “Ad Orientem,” ByzCath08, and Matthew Gaul. Catholics, especially Latin Catholics, should be aware of how offensive it would be/should be to an Orthodox Christian, especially a priestly “steward of the mysteries of God,” for a non-Orthodox Christian to present himself/herself for communion in an Orthodox church. There is a very good chance that such a person, or any stranger, would be asked, as one approaches the chalice, “Are you Orthodox?,” and if one replies “No,” refused communion then and there; and even if one were Orthodox, but unfamiliar to the priest serving the Liturgy, one might well be asked “When did you last go to confession?” – and possibly refused communion if it were longer than a week or two. (All highly commendable, and a good example for Catholics!)

    But I do wonder what Mr. Brandt meant here:

    “That said, I would like to pose the following questions: ‘Schism or no, wouldn’t it be better for one to seek the sacraments and the depths of spiritual teaching among the Orthodox, than to be poorly fed at most RC Churches, where most priests cannot find true doctrine with both hands and a flashlight? Or where there is at least a one in three chance that the priest who is serving the Eucharist is actively gay, and has broken his vows?'”

    Does it mean (1) seek Orthodox sacraments as a Catholic, or (2) become Orthodox? The former would be, as I wrote above, rightly offensive to all orthodox Orthodox Christians; the latter would be from a Catholic perspective an act of schism separating oneself from communion with Petrou Cathedra. Only if one were able to affirm that the Orthodox Church were the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” of the Nicene Creed (rather than “the Roman communion”) would it be honest for a Catholic to become Orthodox, precisely because that Catholic had already inwardly become Orthodox.

  39. William Tighe says:

    “Ad Orientem, Catholics firmly believe that we can recieve the sacraments of Viaticum, Confession and Extreme Unction from an Orthodox priest, if there is no Catholic priest at hand, in danger of death. It’s a part of our Faith, not contrary to it.”

    This is true, MrsMacD, from the perspective of the Catholic Church, but not from that of the Orthodox. There have been cases of Orthodox priests/bishops giving communion to Catholics in articulo mortis or in particular unusual circumstances (the Russian Orthodox made provision for just that in 1970, for Catholics unable to avail themselves of the sacramental ministrations of Catholic clergy, but revoked that permission in 1991), but I don’t think it would be usual even in such circumstances for it to happen – without, at least, it being made clear to the Catholic party that he was effectively “becoming Orthodox” by doing so.

  40. Michael_Thoma says:

    William,

    There is no blanket rule, although the general “norm” is not to approach an Orthodox priest for Eucharist if one is not known to the priest or at least practicing Orthodox. There are exceptions, it is up to the bishop and the priest. As a general rule: the Syriac Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Assyrian Church of the East will commune Catholics, but it is best to ask the priest before Divine Liturgy. From a Catholic perspective, it is permissible to receive from these if the danger of indifferentism is avoided and it is morally or physically impossible to receive from a Catholic priest.

  41. Supertradmum says:

    I know two people who did this. Sad.

    And the Orthodox Church is far from perfect. There is a lot of nonsense and heresy around some of the congregations concerning Christology and even Mariology.

    One does not trade the one, true, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church for some group in schism, no matter how one has to endure poor liturgies and banal sermons.

  42. Gentillylace says:

    In 1990, I was received into the Orthodox Church via chrismation: in 2003, I reverted to the Catholicism in which I had been baptized as an infant and had raised myself (with my non-churchgoing parents’ consent) in from the age of 10, when I told my parents that I wanted to go to church. My knowledge of Catholicism before I converted to Orthodoxy was superficial at best: I had gone to CCD classes when I was in the fifth and sixth grade in order to receive Communion, and then studied with a priest during my freshman year of college before I was confirmed. I had read a fair amount of church history on my own, but I did not know that missing Sunday Mass without good reason or premarital sexual activity that fell short of intercourse were mortal sins (I knew that they were sinful, but thought that they were venial sins). I had also joined the Rainbow Girls (a Masonic-affiliated organization: my mother, who had been brought up Methodist, had an uncle who was a Mason) when I was 13, and did not know that being a Mason or similar was a sin at all.

    I also felt very lonely in the large suburban Southern California parishes I knew and attended on my own, and felt too shy to join any organization (I don’t remember any parish youth ministry — this would have been in the 1980s — but my memory of the time has many lapses). At the time, there were no Eastern Catholic parishes within ten miles from my house (the furthest that I was willing to travel to a parish, since I had never learned how to drive) — none in the local phone book, although there were (as I later learned) several Eastern Catholic parishes 20 to 40 miles away. However, there were several Orthodox parishes within my ten-mile radius. I decided to visit a small mission parish. I was entranced, not only by the liturgy, but by the young priest (a former Pentecostalist) and his charming family. Within weeks, I decided to become a catechumen and was pleased at how much Orthodoxy was like what I already believed. If I was told about how Orthodoxy and Catholicism differed, I must have ignored its importance — of course, I knew that according to the Orthodox Church, the Pope was considered first among equals as far as bishops were concerned (which sounded fine to me!) and I did not comprehend the Catholic Church’s understanding of the Immaculate Conception, even though I would have said that it referred to the conception of Mary and not of Jesus. I was chrismated on the feast of the Dormition, about nine months after my first visit to the mission parish (I later discovered that most Orthodox catechists preferred a full year of catechesis for their catechumens). I did not then realize that from the Catholic Church’s point of view, I was going into schism.

    When the mission parish closed down several years later (the priest later became a Missouri Synod Lutheran minister), I began to attend a Serbian parish and joined the choir. The congregation was always kind to me, but I sometimes felt like an outsider because I was not of Serbian descent nor married to someone of Serbian descent. Why did I revert back to Catholicism? There were several reasons. One was a practical reason: I was in graduate school and it was difficult for me to attend an Orthodox Divine Liturgy every Sunday, but there were two Catholic parishes within an easy bus ride from my apartment. Another was ethnicity, although in retrospect I think that I used it as an excuse when I was looking for a way out. Yet another was the rigid Lenten fast that I tried one year, though again I think that was an excuse as well. And then there was the fact that I had not married (nor was likely to), and for health reasons was unfit for monastic life. I wanted a closer spiritual life than Liturgy every Sunday and reciting prayers and reading Scripture at home every day (as well as hagiographies and church history): the concept of secular institutes, which did not exist in Orthodoxy, appealed to me.

    Since I reverted, I have not joined a secular institute, but I did become a Lay Carmelite. I have become active in parish ministries (EMHC, lectoring). Sometimes, especially when I read at the youth Mass and the electric guitar that the choir uses is a bit too loud, I miss the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. However, there is now a Melkite Catholic mission parish a couple of miles from my house: I really should visit it some Sunday morning.

  43. ByzCath08 says:

    @WilliamTighe When I’m out of town and there is no Eastern Catholic church nearby, I have attended an Orthodox Divine Liturgy on Sundays. I’m well aware that the Orthodox will not commune catholics, nor should they. We are not in communion with each other. Instead, I remain where I am at and pray that we enter into full communion as soon as possible.

  44. Barto of the Cross says:

    In my opinion, what’s happened inside the Roman Catholic Church since the Vatican 2 Council, per the direction and acceptance of popes and bishops, is immensely worse that any previous crisis or period of corruption in the Church. Above all, the boundaries between “Catholic and not Catholic” and between “Christian and not Christian” have been effectively shattered in the lives and minds of nearly all Catholics. There no longer is any “of the world” and “not of the world.” In the Catholic Church, there is no longer any sense of being a unique people set apart by God, for God, with God. That sense was always there, prior to the Vatican 2 Council, regardless of whatever else might be going on.

  45. Netmilsmom says:

    Eastern Rite Baby!
    If the Latins in your area go nuts, find an Eastern Rite parish. There are 23 rites in the Catholic Church. No need to go Orthodox when you can find the reverence and beauty at a Chaldean or Maronite parish.

  46. Bernard Brandt says:

    Dear Ad Orientem and Dr. Tighe,

    My apologies for not responding sooner to your questions, but be.tween taking care of my aged mother, taking my wife to the hospital for a procedure, and the difficulty of logging on to Fr. Z’s comments section, in the words of Peter Jackson’s Gandalf, “I was delayed.”

    Ad Orientem:

    When I had posted my original comment here, your message had not yet appeared to me. In making my comment, I was referring solely to the position which the Roman Catholic Church had toward the Orthodox Churches. As an Eastern Catholic for the last 28 years, I have long known that the relationships between RC and Orthodox Churches have not been symmetrical, or in short, while the RC Church has recently come to recognize the Orthodox as valid, sister churches, the contrary does not obtain among the Orthodox. My apologies if I had given the impression that I thought otherwise.

    Dr. Tighe,

    You have asked whether, in my asking of my questions, I was meaning ” (1) seek Orthodox sacraments as a Catholic, or (2) become Orthodox?” I would have thought it obvious, from the context of Fr. Z’s original question, “Things are bad in the liberal Catholic Church. Can I become Orthodox?” that I was meaning the latter, second choice. My apologies if I had in some way misled you on that issue.

    I would agree with you and Ad Orientem that it would be wrong for a Catholic to seek Orthodox sacraments without becoming Orthodox. What I was asking was whether it was wrong to become Orthodox, when the alternative was to be in a Church which permitted its priests, bishops and theologians to utter and practice all sorts of heresy, where those same clergy were free to serve the sacraments with all manner of defects of form, matter, and quite likely intent, and where a large number of those clergy were or are continuing to break their vows in manners that that Church officially finds (in Canon Law) to be grounds for expulsion from the clergy.

  47. William Tighe says:

    Dear Mr. Brandt,

    “What I was asking was whether it was wrong to become Orthodox, when the alternative was to be in a Church which permitted its priests, bishops and theologians to utter and practice all sorts of heresy, where those same clergy were free to serve the sacraments with all manner of defects of form, matter, and quite likely intent, and where a large number of those clergy were or are continuing to break their vows in manners that that Church officially finds (in Canon Law) to be grounds for expulsion from the clergy.”

    I would say, that for one accepting the “papal communion” as the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” of the Creed it is wrong, and indeed an act of schism, but understandable and pardonable. I think of the case of a now-deceased priest, originally ordained in the 60s in a NY diocese hard-hit by the ham-fisted imposition of the liturgical changes of the late 60s/early 70s, whose slowness to implement the changes and his openly-expressed opposition to some of them brought upon him the contempt and fury of the diocesan establishment, and his own isolation. He became Orthodox. Some 20+ years later he wished to return to the Church, and would have preferred to return to a diocese of a church of the Byzantine rite, but his own former Latin Catholic diocese and its diocesan bishop opposed this might and main, not so much out of a desire to welcome back their prodigal, but, rather, to “make him crawl.” The impasse was broken by the then Cardinal Prefect of the CDF “carpeting” the Latin Catholic bishop and dressing him down for his (and the diocese’s) treatment of the priest in question, ending with a strong “request” that the bishop release his “claim” on the priest. And so it was: the priest became a priest within the Ukrainian Catholic Church until his death some 20 years later.

  48. Bernard Brandt says:

    Dear Dr. Tighe,

    Thank you for your kind and charitable response, especially including the anecdote concerning the priest in your acquaintance. It is good to know that sometimes the good guys win, even in the RC Church. For reasons which I would prefer not to mention now, your response was a needed one, at least for me.

  49. DcnJohnSaturus says:

    As one who instructs inquirers and converts to Orthodoxy, I’d caution you against becoming Orthodox because you don’t like what’s going on in the Roman church. It’s sometimes hard to pin down one’s motives exactly, of course, but the best reason — really, the only reason that makes sense — for converting to Orthodoxy is because you believe Orthodoxy is *true*. And yes, as other commenters have said, as you become better acquainted with the Orthodox Church, you’ll find plenty here not to like. Lord have mercy.

  50. AnthonyJ says:

    anilwang,

    As Father Z already pointed out, leaving the Catholic Church for Orthodoxy is not apostasy. It would be schism. The act of apostasy is committed when a Catholic or any Christian for that matter denies the divinity of Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ. A Christian who became Muslim, Jewish, pagan, or atheist would be an apostate.

  51. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    How does one become more holy, if that path is seemingly denied by those from whom you expect and need guidance? What if you cannot afford a car to drive somewhere far?

    Not everyone has the resources and wherewithal to get elsewhere what they should rightly have in their individual parish. Especially if that parish undermines one’s faith.

    Come Fr. Zed, you must have more to offer than an upper middle class history lesson and urge to be more holy, no?

  52. Scott W. says:

    At the risk of coming off like a jerk, whenever I experience these lousy liturgy/parish/priest/bishop/pope temptations, I ask myself if this liturgy/parish/priest/bishop/pope is better than we deserve. For me personally, the answer is always yes.