Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Distinctions between Orthodoxy and Catholicism

You will always get into trouble if you try to fit Orthodoxy and Catholicism into the same box. They are two very different derivations of an original source which has, ultimately, been obscured with the passage of time. The sooner one accepts this, the sooner one can see one's former church with the benefit of sober insight, and the sooner one can take off any romantic rose tinted glasses coloring the view of one's new church.

Orthodoxy is not Catholicism. Catholicism is not Orthodoxy. It is a tad bit presumptuous to expect one to offer the trappings or treats of the other. One should not expect space for Western devotionalism or a preoccupation with certain forms of the Western liturgy. One should also not expect the adoption of Byzantine chant over and above the Western tradition. There are numerous other examples one can propose that illustrate the same point. So far as corporate praxis is concerned, one must come to grips with the that of whichever church to which one belongs.

The private praxis of prayer is another matter. It is entirely possible to observe a Western prayer life in the Orthodox Church, and vice versa, so long as it is a matter of private praxis. Whether or not volleying between two distinct forms of prayer creates a sort of noetic schizophrenia is unknown. There are those that would maintain a healthy psyche requires one totally adopt all of the forms of prayer of one or the other. Others would say the two balance out the other's respective deficiencies. It seems, given the climate we are in, a good start would be to establish some regular practice.

The mixing of traditions seems inevitable, and it would not be the first time. John Cassian laid the foundational work for Western monasticism by importing what he had learned from "Greek" Christianity. Extrapolating this to our own day, it is not impossible to appropriate aspects of one into the other if one's goal is to create a new system with its own internal coherence. Although this method depends upon the suitability of the one doing the synthesis. That such a synthesis would be attempted should be expected. The exchange of ideas and information is rampant and instantaneous and Christianity's situation is becoming ever more fluid due to external pressures. We should expect attempts at synthesis. We should also expect these attempts to come along with a good number of charlatans and megalomaniacs, and maybe a handful of people with a good idea and reasonable intention.

For now, Orthodoxy and Catholicism are two very distinct traditions. Both suffer from a range of superstitions and "true-church" ecclesiology rooted in ethnic/cultural provincialism, overlaid with theological afterthought. Both hold ecclesiological positions that are increasingly fragile and, if there is any sense about the matter, compel each other to move closer in the hope of saving face in the long run.


  1. Reading the end of your post, is it your contention that neither the Catholic or Orthodox Churches can exclusively be the one true Church? It seems you a conveying that from your post. I ask not to condemn, I was just wondering what your stance is. Thank you.


  2. i second the above comment. what is your ecclesiology.

    i am a romish papist. i was a sedevacantist, and then i "reverted back" to the novus ordo vatican 2 diabolical sect abomination blah blah blah...

    i read most of your posts concerning liturgy (if not all) today and they're really interesting.

    at one point i bought into ottaviani intervention, and the sspx critique of the novus ordo, but since have found many historical precedents to the changes brought about (even when i was a sedevacantist), so, consequently, your last "gathering a sense" post struck many pleasant chords.

    sorry for sloppy writing. wanted to say as much as possible in the least possible (true roman, eh?)