Hegel on Catholicism

6 04 2011

Catholicism does not claim the essential direction of the Secular; religion remains an indifferent matter on the one side, while the other side of life is dissociated from it, and occupies a sphere exclusively its own. Cultivated Frenchmen therefore feel an antipathy to Protestantism because it seems to them something pedantic, dull, minutely captious in its morality; since it requires that Spirit and Thought should be directly engaged in religion: in attending mass and other ceremonies, on the contrary, no exertion of thought is required, but an imposing sensuous spectacle is presented to the eye, which does not make such a demand on one’s attention as entirely to exclude a little chit chat, while yet the duties of the occasion are not neglected.

-Hegel, The Philosophy of History

One should keep in mind in the above quote that Hegel was actually very much a Francophile. Maybe he did not appreciate the religion much, but he liked the French, and even quipped to his wife that they should go live in Paris. Also, from the description, it is not hard to imagine Hegel actually gracing the doorstep of a church in France or witnessing a procession through the streets of statues or the Blessed Sacrament. I don’t think he is particularly bigoted, even if many of his dismissals of entire continents in this work show that he is, in his core, a bigot.

But of course, now we live in a different world. I have often called Vatican II, “the clericalization of the laity”. Many hardened traditionalists call it the “Protestantization of Catholicism”. Perhaps it is both, but not for the reasons commonly thought. If anything, the clergy were supposed to be the ones who “spiritualized” the popular rites and ceremonies of the people. Most clergy were probably just functionaries, and failed to do so. (This is why Jansenism was so popular amongst many sophisticated quarters in urban France: it attempted to “interiorize” religion, and not just make it the obligatory ideology of the State.) With the modern resourcement, the Liturgical Movement, Vatican II, etc. these rites could no longer be cultural and political obligations: they had to “mean something”, be assimilated by the Spirit,, etc. even if what they meant had to be made up on the fly.

I think the average Catholic, the real average Catholic, has the last laugh in all of this. Our rites still don’t take much “exertion of thought”, people still chat in church, and so on. (Makes you less nostalgic about the “good ol’ days”.) And there are still at least some “cultivated people” (I’ll go out on a limb and put myself in their number) who still find Protestantism hopelessly pedantic and captious. While we may miss the “spectacles for the eyes” and bemoan the frivolity and lack of gravitas in current Catholic ritual, we still might choose a parish based on church architecture and decoration, music, and so on. Plus ça change


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30 09 2011
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12 04 2011
Venuleius

The liturgical studies for Eastern Christianity are a mixed bag. Part of the problem is that some of the better studies aren’t in English and so, if you’re like me and only know useless tongues, you have to comb through secondary sources to piece together the insights of far more learned men.

The Low/High Mass distinction doesn’t exist in Eastern Orthodoxy, though different “grades” of Feasts call for increasingly complex liturgical acrobatics with as many as five different liturgical texts needed to pull off a single service. Some jurisdictions have opted to simplify their liturgics a bit. For instance, the Greek Church adopted reforms to the Typicon (Ordo) which guts the service of Matins and truncates the Liturgy; most parishes cease to serve any of the other hours. The Russians–at least in the U.S.–continue to be maximalists in many respects (perhaps because their main seminary was attached to a monastery), though I hear the practices are somewhat more relaxed in many of the parishes in Russia itself. Interestingly, from the 18th C. or so, the Russian Church started printing Books of Hours (Chasoslov/Horologion) with votive services that were supposed to “fill in” the movable parts at Matins, Vespers, etc. Basically, they were modeled on the idea of the Roman Breviary and remained popular up through the 20th C. You can also find Russian Orthodox prayer and service books up through the 20th C. which talk about liturgy intentions, have prayers to be said during the liturgy (since the faithful probably didn’t know what was going on anyway), and so on. But if you tell the Russians these are “Latinizations,” they’ll throw a fit.

12 04 2011
sortacatholic

Montreal. There’s a feedback mechanism going: 3% of Quebecois hear Mass on Sunday because only 3% of Quebecois can actually endure the liturgy.

12 04 2011
Francesca R

Sortacatholic, where do you live? In Canada? Ontario?

11 04 2011
sortacatholic

Venuleius: It’s a historical mistake to assume that every Divine Liturgy was celebrated through history with all the stops pulled.

Okay, total facepalm on that one. Actually, I’d like to read up on the various gradations of liturgical practice in the East. It’d be interesting to compare the different types of DL celebration against the low/high/solemn/pontifical spectrum in the Roman liturgy.

Actually, I prefer Low Mass. When I go back to the States, I hear as many EF Masses as I can before I have to go back to the deprivation tank. While I hear Solemn Mass, I prefer Low Mass. The tendency of some in the EF movement to go berserk Baroque at every single Mass (paging Cdl. Burke) contradicts the diversity of liturgical complexity in both East and West. Maybe it’s my emotionally sterile Irish roots, but I prefer the quiet meditative solitude of a well-said 30 minute votive Mass. Lace is for doilies, not grown men.

11 04 2011
venuleius

Sorta,

I have no problem with the “Latinization” of the Eastern Rite, especially given the fact that some of its alleged “Latinisms” are of older vintage than the “Easternisms” of contemporary Russian Orthodoxy (which, oddly, has provided the “base texts” against which the allegedly “Latinized” Uniate texts are compared). Moreover, it makes perfect sense to me that the liturgical life of the Eastern Churches in communion with Rome would “morph” over the centuries as the two liturgical cultures interacted. The pursuit of purity in liturgics strikes me as a fool’s errand, especially when not even Orthodox liturgics demonstrate the sort of purity its adhernts claim for it.

It’s a historical mistake to assume that every Divine Liturgy was celebrated through history with all the stops pulled. Even today, Old Believer Liturgies (for those groups which have a priesthood) are surprisingly sparse despite being of an older vintage than the contemporary “high” Russian liturgies you see celebrated today. The opening Psalms are intoned, not chanted and the troparia, konatkia, Beatitudes, etc. are intoned except for the final phrases. Also, because many of the prayers are still read silently, a few extra minutes are shaved off as well. I’ve heard–though this may just be liturgical lore–that Athonite liturgies are mostly intoned on non-feast days and take a whopping 45 minutes to complete.

I don’t mean to downplay the problems of the post-Vat II liturgical culture. I suppose I am speaking from the perspective of my own very Catholic family–especially of my grandparents’ generation–who just rolled their eyes and dealt with it (much in the way you have). But then again, I came from a fairly conservative part of Michigan where you can find the NO Mass without the mutilations and a couple of parishes which always had an indult for the Latin mass (not counting the SSPX parish in the sticks outside of town). In other words, if you were at a parish with guitar strumming and priests telling the faithful that Jesus didn’t come to frighten anyone, etc., it’s because you wanted to be there. A reasonable alternative–NO or Tridentine–was just a stone’s throw away.

11 04 2011
sortacatholic

venuleius:

I grew up in Eastern Rite parishes that never got the “de-Latinize” memo and had all the joys any altar server could have of ringing the bells during the Epiklesis, etc.

C’mon, what’s wrong with a little Sacred Heart? “De-latinization” neglects to realize that there has always been devotional and liturgical transport between East and West since Brest and even before. Yes, I know, Sacred Heart iconography is un-Orthodox, Orthodox don’t adore body parts, the Sacred Heart devotion was created in response to a western heresy (Jansenism), St. Mary Alacoque’s “visions” were “imagination”, etc. The fundamental concept of devotion to the human nature of Christ is entirely orthodox. Why not let people practice spirituality as it meets their needs?

All of this is a long way of saying that Orthodoxy, much more than Catholicism, hinges its legitimacy on the beauty and integrity of the Divine Liturgy.

I agree and disagree. Western Christianity has always been better at compartmentalizing liturgy according to function. Where the Byzantine DL is for the most part set and invariable (though often illicitly shortened), Rome gradually permitted the “abuse” of Low Mass to not only flourish but become the standard liturgy for Latins. One latinization that is bad, in my opinion, is the former Eastern Catholic “Low Mass” mentality. It seems that more and more Eastern Catholics are returning to the full celebration of the DL. Still, I’ve heard a “read” Divine Liturgy, and it is an impoverishment. Whereas Latin liturgy can admit degrees of liturgical rationalism, this is not a legitimate eastern development in my opinion.

Catholics seem to have accepted the post-Vat II liturgical tragedies without completely losing faith.

Um, I’m being slowly spiritually suffocated by the ‘Ordinary Form’. I’ve given up on the Novus Ordo. I live in a part of the world where traditional Catholicism has been brutally suppressed by a clerical regime stuck in guitar-strumming 1968. Most of the Novus Ordo Masses are mutilated beyond recognition. I just recite a rosary and try to block out what’s happening. Back in New England, the Extraordinary Form is still very popular. There are still many orthodox and traditional Roman Catholic faithful. Above the 49th, stick a fork in it — Catholicism’s an ossified wreck.

If you’re a C&E Roman Catholic, the Novus Ordo is all good. For serious RC’s who don’t have access to a devoutly said EF, spiritual life can be excruciating torture. It’s true that Western spirituality is less liturgy-dependent, but what’s happened to RC worship in the past 50 years has enervated even the most convinced Latins.

11 04 2011
venuleius

The liturgics aspect is overplayed. Anyone infatuated with Orthodox liturgical practice can relieve themselves of their romanticism by reading a few basic books on the history of Eastern liturgical “development” (ooh, they hate that word). Heck, if you give any amount of study to the Old Believer schism in the Russian Church, you’ll quickly find out how paltry the present Russian claims are to high liturgical piety and coherence. (This is not to say that all of the Old Believer claims should be taken at face value or that Salvation is to be found automatically in 5 hour Vigils on Saturday nights.) It’s all very beautiful when done right, but when you start looking at what it is they are actually doing and strip away the various post hoc justifications for certain liturgical acts that have been completely decontextualized (e.g., Polyeleos, Evlogitaria). But still, very beautiful–just don’t ask any questions about it means.

And believe me, I say all of this as someone who has been accused (quite rightly) in the past of being a liturgical snob. I’d much rather go to a ROCOR Vigil in Church Slavonic (truncated though it may be) than a choppy OCA Vigil with bad English translations. Of course, maybe that’s “old me” talking since, at this point, I couldn’t care less about the content of the services so long as no one is doing do-it-yourself litanies, taking coffee breaks during the Great Canon, or holding a charismatic Mass. I grew up in Eastern Rite parishes that never got the “de-Latinize” memo and had all the joys any altar server could have of ringing the bells during the Epiklesis, etc. The conflation might not “make sense,” but then again, neither do a lot of supposedly “pure” practices. One just hopes it’s not all so atrocious that the Angels are averting their gaze.

All of this is a long way of saying that Orthodoxy, much more than Catholicism, hinges its legitimacy on the beauty and integrity of the Divine Liturgy. Liturgics, not praxis or even theological correctness (since most Orthodox know about as much theology as Catholics do despite their pretensions to the contrary), is the measuring stick; if you have crappy services, you’re probably a modernistic or a heretic. Catholics seem to have accepted the post-Vat II liturgical tragedies without completely losing faith.

11 04 2011
Swingline

I suppose I should qualify my first paragraph — and the comments about the Reuthenians — by saying that most of the Orthodox play at being Orthodox as well. Can you do anything more when your fundamental conviction about your religion is that it is exotic and cool?

11 04 2011
Swingline

I attended a few RCIA classes, but more or less the reason I started attending the Orthodox church was because I liked it better. I later internalized some of the important stuff, and I can’t take NO liturgies, but my wife has also told me that if I convert to anything else she’ll leave me. I honestly waffle on the Petrine primacy stuff, but since Catholicism takes such a soft stance on us schismatics I figure I’m safe; the Reuthenians in the United States are all converts anyway so I might as well stick with the Orthodox instead of the Catholics who play at it.

I realize that probably makes me a former Protestant religious boutiquer, but at the same time I have a certain disdain for the bourgois crowd that comes to church toting their Orthodox Study Bibles and talking about FM-G’s new book about Mary “…which is sooooooo good.” There’s something strangely Evangelical feeling about the experience, and I was almost put off of the Church by the ex-Prots who kept approaching me at coffee hour and asking about my “journey to Orthodoxy.” Likewise, it didn’t take long for me to get tired of the ex-Prots who get their rocks off by talking about how wrong Protestantism, especially Calvinism, is; you want to talk about pendantic? I’m not sure which is worse, the Orthodox converts who can’t drop the Protestant baggage or the Catholic converts who want to corner you and ask about your personal relationship with Mary.

I suppose I’ll have to go grow a Seraphim Rose beard and do 40,000 prostrations for saying this now.

11 04 2011
dcs

venuleius writes:
I used to think I wasn’t supposed to be that honest about the whole thing, especially since Orthodox converts like their meaningful tales of struggle, prayer, and intellectual masturbation which brought them “home,” to that “one true Church” that always “called to them” (or some such nonsense). Yeah, ok. I know that’s the script you’re supposed to read, but it’s poorly written and implausible to boot.

Sounds a lot like the testimonies one might read from Catholic converts, either on-line or in book form. I don’t regret converting to Catholicism for a minute. But I’ve often felt that my conversion “story” wasn’t very interesting and could use some spicing up!

10 04 2011
Anonymous

Interesting

9 04 2011
Owen White

Tell him Owen from Memphis says hello if you don’t mind.

9 04 2011
Charlie Jackson

Yep. I know him very well, and have taken classes with him.

8 04 2011
Owen White

Charlie,

Ever run into Prof. Ron Thomas there are Belmont?

8 04 2011
Venuleius

Kimel’s assessment rings strange to me since it would seem that one of the problems with Catholic theology in the last century is its constant desire to “dialogue” with non-Catholics or to play around in modern philosophy, etc. In fact, one of the persistent charges made against modern Catholicism by traditionalists is that they’ve deviated from the authentic Catholic intellectual tradition in order to be relevant. Whether that charge has any weight or not, I don’t know. But I certainly don’t see the closedness Kimel observered among contemporary Catholic thinkers.

I would argue that Orthodox theologians/intellectuals are a more cloistered bunch, though a few–Louth, Behr, Ware (from time to time), Bradshaw–have some sophistication with non-Orthodox sources. (I could toss Hart in there as well, though for all practical purposes, he’s a modern Catholic theologian.) Traditionalist Orthodox are probably the worst of the lot since they try to cover-up their utter lack of knowledge about even their own tradition by screaming, “Rationalism! Heresy!, etc.” I guess traditionalist Catholics do a bit of that themselves, but they seem to do a better job dressing up their reactionary rhetoric.

8 04 2011
Charlie Jackson

Pretty much hit the nail on the head. I go to school at an undergraduate Catholic college; wish we could get some of that “lazy” Catholicism around here though. Belmont Abbey is increasingly trying to become one of those “moral magic kingdoms”

8 04 2011
C. Wingate

Well, back before Al Kimel went off, he complained to me that most theological dialog with Catholics was a waste of time, because they were utterly uninterested in anything that a non-Catholic had to say. I do see a lot of that. It’s not as bad with the Orthodox I’ve run into, though there are plenty of crazies out there and they are the sort of people that rebellious Protestant converts tend to seek out (because, after all, to be a convert you have to rebel against your old church).

Anglicanism may be dying a slow death in the first world but Catholicism isn’t going to see much of the “fruits” of this. At root, the vast majority of Anglicans are Protestants to some degree or another, and the ones for whom Rome has a lot of appeal are the ones who are so theologically obsessive that they can get past the reality that the Episcopalians, even the heretics, just do a better job of church than the typical suburban Roman parish.

7 04 2011
sortacatholic

Venuleius: He really did believe that the Orthodox Church provides some magic kingdom of kid-loving, high-virtue, socially conservative Christians who aren’t susceptible to the temptations of modernity. But maybe that’s not completely shocking, especially since there are plenty of sectarian Protestants who believe their tiny house church or splinter group provides the same level of security.

A Jesuit priest once said: “Some kids need to take a break from organized religion while in college.” Couldn’t’ve said it better, Padre.

I never really understood the phenomenon of looking for the “right” religious community. Of course your kids are going to get plastered, screw around, and slough off church attendance as soon as they’re out from Mom and Dad’s view. I suspect that a lot of fundie parents think that sending their kid off to bible college or “Catholic bible college” (Steubenville, St. Thomas Aquinas, Ave Maria) will hold them back another three or four years from “the world”. I’m sure that there’s just as much boozing and sexing going on at these places. It’s just farther off campus.

One has to wonder if this search for the “moral Magic Kingdom” (as you put it) is more to assuage parents’ fears than to change children’s behavior.

7 04 2011
Andrew

Owen, what about a religious hipster ex-Calvinist raised as a charismatic evangelical converting to Orthodoxy? Five years in and I’m basically at the end of it 😦 We’ll see. Niche doesn’t even begin to describe the extent of American Orthodoxy’s extreme marginality and distance from any effect on reality. Orthodoxy in America is so unimportant that the OCA can get away with what it has and nobody except for religious nerds who spend over 30 hours a week on the internet know or care about it… and only a fraction of said nerds.

7 04 2011
venuleius

I’ve been afflicted with a fair share of ex-Protestant conversion stories over the years and only one actually discussed in some depth why the person opted for Orthodoxy over Catholicism. The argument was basically a rehash of the Rod Dreher litany of why he couldn’t be Catholic anymore and so jumped ship to Orthodoxy, i.e., that Orthodoxy is a “secure” place to raise one’s kids with “conservative values,” etc. Sure. The thing is, I think this individual was being 100% sincere. He really did believe that the Orthodox Church provides some magic kingdom of kid-loving, high-virtue, socially conservative Christians who aren’t susceptible to the temptations of modernity. But maybe that’s not completely shocking, especially since there are plenty of sectarian Protestants who believe their tiny house church or splinter group provides the same level of security. If you can remain insular enough, perhaps you can pull it off, but that’s rare. If people really want an Orthodoxy that provides full-on social security in the form of high-walls against outsiders, modernity, defections, etc., they should learn Russian and get in good with one of the half-dozen Old Believer groups in the U.S. Otherwise you’re going to have to deal with the same troubles in Orthodoxy as the Catholics deal with.

But I should make clear that I profess no claim whatsoever to being endowed with the level of sophistication, intelligence, and discernment necessary to weigh the competing claims of Orthodoxy and Catholicism and determine the “winner.” Maybe there are some people out there who profess such wisdom, but I’m not one of them. (And even though there are such people, it’s a bit disheartening to find that even they can’t agree among themselves.) But this is really a late-modern problem unique to pluralist societies. If this was 500 years ago and I was a Pole living in the eastern borderland and desirous of keeping my farm, I’d probably be Orthodox. But if I came from wealthy parents who could send me West to study for a few years, I’d be a Catholic, etc. Having existential doubts about one’s faith commitments is a privilege few living before 1900 ever had.

I’ll readily admit that when I joined the Orthodox Church 7 years ago, I did it because my immediate family had converted while I was off at college telling people I was a Kantian agnostic. (Oh, what a fool I was…) Once my head was screwed back on straight, it seemed best to just go where my family went. I had been an Eastern Rite (Uniate) Catholic growing up and the liturgics of Orthodoxy felt more natural to me than a Novus Ordo mass. And since there was nothing in my Catholic upbringing that was so critical to me that I thought I couldn’t carry it with me to Orthodoxy, there really wasn’t much of a barrier to me joining the Orthodox Church. I had no great conversion moment; there was no heated battle in my head and my heart; and whatever I learned of Orthodoxy in detail, I learned only after becoming part of it. But if you alter the conditions of my conversion even slightly, the outcome could have been quite different.

I used to think I wasn’t supposed to be that honest about the whole thing, especially since Orthodox converts like their meaningful tales of struggle, prayer, and intellectual masturbation which brought them “home,” to that “one true Church” that always “called to them” (or some such nonsense). Yeah, ok. I know that’s the script you’re supposed to read, but it’s poorly written and implausible to boot. While I readily agree that there are converts to Orthodoxy who are moved by nothing more than what they’ve read in books or experienced at a Liturgy, I find that such conversions are few and far between. So be it. Not everyone can fall off a horse on the road to Damascus.

7 04 2011
venuleius

I have it on good authority that he sent his Grace into the world and one vagrant monastery in Colorado has it. Period.

7 04 2011
Cabbage

This is arguably the soundest theological argument for the “branch theory”. God so loved the world that he sends his Grace to many churches because he knows we’re a bunch of children who can’t stop bickering.

7 04 2011
sortacatholic

back = bad.

Also, I suspect that many “converts” to Orthodoxy are really converts on paper, as they probably cannot get to an Orthodox parish, even a vagans priest, on a regular basis.

7 04 2011
sortacatholic

Venuleius: There are a lot of Orthodox who are Orthodox because they buy into certain Orthodox myths about Orthodoxy vis-a-vis Catholicism. My suspicion is that their comfort could be destabilized and, further, that Orthodox who are just fed up with Orthodoxy could be courted.

After having spoken with evangelical converts to Orthodoxy, many would rather join the Hale-Bopp cult rather than become mackerel-snappers. I’ve even read a few “conversion stories” where the Orthodox convert said “well, I went to RCIA and didn’t find anything back with it, but I just couldn’t be one of them.” Then they tell a bunch of Orthodox half-truths to cover up their fear of Catholicism. The ties of family prejudice run much deeper than salvation.

7 04 2011
Lotar

I suppose I’m just a big believer in apathy. Just like how ECUSA is dying a slow trickling death. Most people just don’t care enough to change.

7 04 2011
M.Z.

The mathematician in me loves the numbers discussion.

Except for the most marginal of communions, converts don’t matter. All communions facing issues for the most part saw their flocks leave at college. The seeker churches are seeing near full churn at 5 years.

The bishop of Providence looks at a 70% decline in the Church marriage rate is hopeful because of the better quality. I needs some of the crack he’s smoking. Send in the clowns.

7 04 2011
Owen White

I suppose I was thinking about it in trickle down terms. FM-G reads Louth, and the priest and those two assholes that always talk theology at coffee hour read FM-G, and your average convert overhears some of that, and thinks of it when his kid asks him why he always refers to Catholics as schismatics when they drive by a Knights of Columbus pancake breakfast.

7 04 2011
Venuleius

As for my 25% estimate…

I think there are cradle Orthodox in the U.S. who could be flipped to the Eastern Rite, especially if it meant they got to be part of something “bigger” and no one told them to start using those awful new translations the Ruthenians did a few years back. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the only jurisdiction which would be truly immune from Catholic apologetics/evangelism is ROCOR, but I’ll save the “whys” for another time.

When I mentioned Catholics pulling an “Orthodox Come Home” campaign, I certainly didn’t mean they would just spread a lot of counter-apologetics for the intellectuals. I’m talking about Catholics having open houses, putting out some pop literature, placing a few targeted articles in a few Catholic magazines that Orthodox might read, etc. There are a lot of Orthodox who are Orthodox because they buy into certain Orthodox myths about Orthodoxy vis-a-vis Catholicism. My suspicion is that their comfort could be destabilized and, further, that Orthodox who are just fed up with Orthodoxy could be courted. (Seriously, where do these people go? Protestantism? Most of the Orthodox I’ve met who left the Church have thrown in the towel on Christianity altogether because they think there are no more options left.)

As for the intellectuals, I think Owen is dead right. If anything, Catholics like to read Orthodox theology to help them affirm that they really aren’t very different or to bolster Catholicism’s own claims to Patristic authenticity. And when some of the Orthodox really do disagree with the Catholics, the Catholics tend to ignore them or shrug their shoulders. Maybe that’s not 100% intellectually honest, but Catholic intellectuals, like most intellectuals living today, are probably academics. And as academics, they have to pick their fights with care. There’s tenure to secure, fellowships to win, and book deals from Eerdmans to consider. You can’t go wasting precious research time at every moment when some Greek reads Heidegger and thinks he’s got this whole “being” business figured out.

7 04 2011
Venuleius

I miss Pontifications…

7 04 2011
rr

Numbers don’t equal truth. That being said, both in the United States and worldwide, Orthodoxy and mainline Protestantism, especially including the ECUSA, are in the same boat of demographic decline. The two big demographic behemoths within Christianity are the RCC and Evangelical Protestantism (Baptists, Pentecostals, etc.).

7 04 2011
Lotar

I think it is a good point, but the 25% is way high – maybe they could siphon off 25% of converts and some of the newer converts and parishes. In reality, most people don’t give a shit about the intellectual stuff, and even less are honest about it. How many Orthodox know who Louth is, let alone read him? They would still have to fight for converts from a tradition that teaches them that the Pope is the Devil from their first days in Sunday School.

But then 25% of converts would turn a religion in decline to a religion at death’s doorstep. It wouldn’t talk long until the Greeks are the only game in town, since they sort of keep their children and their converts mostly marry in.

I’ll admit that my own prejudices against the RCC influenced my decision as far as my never really considering them as an “option”. But, even by the time I converted I was willing to admit that if I had been raised Catholic, I never would have converted. So, my being Orthodox is largely the consequence of a nun telling my 10 year old grandpa that God killed his dad for being a bad man.

7 04 2011
sortacatholic

I’d like to get back to Arturo’s observation: but when it comes to the Protestant evangelical who secretly suspects that the Pope is the anti-Christ but votes for the right party, it’s all “natural law”, sweetness ‘n light, a coalition for decency, etc. In other words, it is entirely subjective.

I bold this last line because Catholic and evangelical “coping mechanisms” for “plural” “postmodern democracy” are not entirely subjective. Both neocon Catholics and evangelicals harbor ideal understandings of polity. The difference resides in the conflict between magisterium vs. private interpretation, but not the end sociopolitical result of either ideal political model.

The American Catholic-evangelical political marriage of convenience reflects the harsh reality of so-called “democratic” pluralism versus the fantasy Catholic confessional state ideal and the evangelical dominionist idea. Since neither one of these ideal conservative states can be achieved, compromises must be made in a political vacuum. Sure, some evangelicals might still think that Holy Mother Church is the Whore of Babylon, but some Catholics and some evangelicals also know that they cannot gain discrete goals such as the end of abortion without a strange bedstead.

The cooperation of enemies does not preclude the reality that dominionism is centered on a private interpretation of the Bible filtered through “a personal relationship with Jesus”, or a social and cultural manifestation of subjective, internal sentiments. This cooperation does not preclude the reality that the Catholic confessional state is magisterial, ultramontanist, and perhaps integrist. Nevertheless, Catholics and evangelicals will advance towards common legislative ends even if the achievement of these goals might redouble the hatred between them.

6 04 2011
Owen White

Ven,

“Catholicism could clean up 25% of Orthodoxy’s numbers in less than five years.”

Well put. I had not thought of it in those terms before, but you are quite right, methinks. Some of the best anglo-Orthodox “theological”ish thinkers devote time in various ways to contrasting Orthodox thought and ethos with the West (Louth, Ware, Bradshaw, even Behr, etc. – all do this in more or less overt ways, and before them Florovsky and Schmemann and Zernof and Sherrard, etc. did it..). The “best” Catholic ecclesial thinkers very rarely bother to contrast Catholicism with Orthodoxy. Aside from Aidan Nichols, I can’t think of any living Catholic theologian, of first or second or third “tier” status. who has at all confronted the issue. Catholic theologians and clerics leave it to their convert internet hacks to debate such things because they don’t have time to engage in apologetics with a few dozen representatives of 50,000 former Baptists in America who now wave incense around. If Catholic bishops and the more serious Catholic theologians did make it a point to do to the American Orthodox what the American Orthodox do to them, I would anticipate with you your speculated result.

6 04 2011
venuleius

I will back Owen’s view here and add that I believe the thesis that Orthodoxy (or certain strands of it) allows ex-Protestants to get their ritual on without the Pope has some merit to it. But I also think a lot of ex-Protestant converts are savvy enough to know you don’t go saying that sort of thing out loud, so I suppose ascertaining their true motivations will always be difficult.

One additional thought which popped into my head is the fact that Protestants are quite taken with a lot of Orthodoxy’s popular myths, especially with respect to liturgical, theological, and spiritual continuity. Since Orthodoxy never suffered a Vatican II, there’s no recent historical “break” with an older tradition for Protestants to observe in Orthodoxy as they can observe in Catholicism. Catholicism can seem like it is more open to manipulation, renovation, anti-traditionalism, namby-pamby continuity, etc. if Vatican II is interpreted as the jettisoning of “old Catholicism” for “new Catholicism.” By comparison, Orthodoxy looks older, more venerable, and unwavering in the face of modernism because priests tell people that St. John Chrysostom instituted all of the litanies after the Gospel reading and that in the Greco-Russian consciousness, “All-Night Vigil” obviously means a 2-3 hour service that ends by 9p.m. And then, of course, there’s the fact that Orthodoxy doesn’t just go on making up new councils (only seven!), that the energies/essence distinction is not only very relevant to your everyday layman’s life, but is definitely preached about in St. Paul’s Epistles, and so on and so forth. This is all quite intoxicating to an unmoored Protestant seeking the “true church.”

But don’t get me wrong. I think Orthodoxy has a few things going for it that Catholicism could—if it wanted to—successfully pick up on. I doubt you’ll find many services in North America more beautiful than a (truncated) Vigil at a large ROCOR parish or monastery, but that’s minor in the grand scheme of things. But there are still decent sized pockets of Orthodoxy in America that have that gravitas which Catholicism or, I should say, certain wings of Catholicism, have abandoned. But the fact that Catholicism could have that all back and, indeed, there are wings of the Catholic Church which are actively taking it back indicates to me that the alleged “divine” between the two—at least with respect to aesthetics and liturgical solemnity—are more imagined than real. Even so, I doubt any of this really factors into most people’s decisions when deciding to swim the Bosporus.

I have a strong suspicion that Orthodoxy’s actual and relative numbers in North America are in decline and will continue to go into decline in the coming decades. And really, the Orthodox should be thankful that the Catholic Church views them as estranged brethren and is willing to tolerate their presence. It really wouldn’t take much for a concentrated Catholic effort to destabilize Orthodoxy’s position further, point out how 90% of Orthodox apologetics are packed to the brim with bullshit, and launch an “Orthodox Come Home” campaign. Some will always hate Catholicism and so be it. But if Owen is willing to bet his house on Orthodoxy’s numbers, then I’ll put up my, uhm, heavy-duty industrial stapler sitting on the corner of my desk, that Catholicism could clean up 25% of Orthodoxy’s numbers in less than five years.

6 04 2011
John S. Bell

The best numbers currently available are from the 2010 census by Alexei Krindatch: http://www.hartfordinstitute.org/research/2010-USOrthodox-Census.pdf

He estimates that there are 293,900 regular Sunday attenders in all the Orthodox Churches in the U.S., non-Chalcedonians included. Of that number, 107,400 are in the Greek Archdiocese. So basically American Orthodoxy is Greek, with a smaller Slavic block, a smattering of Arabs and a big group of Copts and Syriacs who get lumped in with the Chalcedonians for statistical purposes.

6 04 2011
Arturo Vasquez

I have a sort of mandatory addendum to this post (one that I intended to post originally, but I forgot). It concerns the idea of the role of coercion in belief (again), and betrays the brainwashing that modern people have had concerning the so-called “free exercise of religion”. For them, the most “Christian” thing to do is not “bother anyone” about their beliefs and to try to convince with reason and “luv” those who disagree with you. There is a certain ritualized “tsk, tsk” these people resort to when you bring up the Inquisition, witch-burnings, forced conversions at the tip of a sword, etc. “Of course, they didn’t realize how ‘unchristian’ all of that behavior really was. We are more enlightened now, etc.” One could say that those past Christians believed more than they do: better to drag someone into Heaven than let them frolic their way freely into Hell. (I don’t really believe that. I am just saying for the sake of argument.)

So when certain readers of this blog are horrified by the SSPX, for example, they are really horrified by Catholicism simply put. Or rather, they are horrified by the institution that is the Catholic Church. The past Magisterium had no problem in saying that people had to be coerced into doing what is right, even when it comes to right belief. People could not be trusted to make the best decision most of the time, so a little societal pressure and the gendarme showing up at your door at three in the morning was a necessary evil, and maybe not even that evil. Nowadays, “good Catholics” snort with glee when they hear what Polycarp said to Marcion: “I know the firstborn of the devil.” However, this is entirely subjective: they are more than happy to cast such a sentiment towards a Catholic politician who supports health care reform, but when it comes to the Protestant evangelical who secretly suspects that the Pope is the anti-Christ but votes for the right party, it’s all “natural law”, sweetness ‘n light, a coalition for decency, etc. In other words, it is entirely subjective.

The only way for the “lazy” Catholicism that Hegel saw in 19th century France to work is if there is an army behind it, or at least a State willing to enforce the edicts of the Church. Baring that, what you get is what we have today: people who could care less what a bunch of bureaucrats in the Vatican think and those who pretend they do. Secretly, many of these bureaucrats knew all along that an unconditional support of religious freedom would lead to the secularist “dictatorship of relativism”. Some opposed it bitterly (Ottaviani, Lefebvre), most were resigned to it and hoped for the best. We all know the results, pace the calls for a “new evangelization”.

6 04 2011
French Catholicism and Big Questions | English Catholic

[…] 6, 2011 by Fr Anthony Chadwick Arturo Vasquez has written another article on his blog – Hegel on Catholicism – with a nice photo of Mass at Saint Nicolas du Chardonnet in Paris. Though the photo looks like […]

6 04 2011
Owen White

As someone who has been a fairly intimate observer of evangelical and mainline Prot conversion to Orthodoxy in the last 20 years, I would dissent from the phrasing here. There is no substantial current “trend” of evangelical and mainline Prot conversions to Orthodoxy. The growth numbers given by the various American Orthodox jurisdictions are notoriously inflated. The story has been oft told of how the OCA (Orthodox Church of America) was named by the National Council of Churches as the fastest growing Christian church in America a few years back, when it “grew” from 1 million members to 1.1 million members in a single year. What the NCC did not know was that a committee in the OCA decided that the 1 million number they had published for 7 or 8 years surely needed updating so they decided to throw out the 1.1 million number on the basis of no hard data whatsoever. It sounded good to them.

The bulk of Evangelical and mainline Prot conversion to Orthodoxy occurred in the 80s and 90s, with the largest single block of them coming from the Evangelical Orthodox Church (former Campus Crusaders) joining the Antiochian Archdiocese just over 20 years ago. Were talking a little more than a few thousand people then. For all of their talk and publication about evangelism, I doubt that there are more than 15,000 or 20,000 converts who have remained Orthodox for more than 5 years coming off the wave of the EOC conversion, and that wave lost most of its energies a decade or so ago.

Fr. Thomas Hopko has stated in recent years he thinks that perhaps 30,000 souls commune on a regular basis in the OCA. The Greeks make up over half of all American Orthodox and they do not have large numbers of converts from Protestantism.

Despite the ridiculous number stated officially – you will hear from Orthodox that there are 2-5million Orthodox in this country, I am convinced that there are fewer than 300,000 persons in Orthodox parishes in America on a “good” Sunday. Most Sundays there are probably less than 150,000. I say this on the basis of having looked at every demographic study I could get my hands on dealing with Orthodox membership and attendance numbers, and 20 years of attending Orthodox parishes in America, perhaps 100 parishes in most of our 50 states thanks to a couple of jobs over the years that allowed me to travel. I would feel confident betting my house that more Evangelicals and mainline Prots convert to Catholicismin the United States in any single three month period than have converted to Orthodoxy in the last 30 years. It may be more in a single month.

I realize that the seeming ubiquity of Orthodox writers on the religious internet, and certain Orthodox media outfits suggest a size bigger than what I am stating above. There is no Orthodox EWTN, but Ancient Faith Radio and Conciliar Press and some of the other Orthodox media/publishing ministries can give one the impression that there are numbers of Evangelicals converting to Orthodoxy that are in the ballpark of the numbers of Evangelicals converting to Catholicism. But this simply is not the case.

Outside of Evangelicalism the most talked about religious demographic for converts to Orthodoxy is conservative Episcopalians and Anglicans. This has been the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for 25+ years now. Every time any controversy of any kind breaks out again in ECUSA, or now more especially in the Anglican Continuum, there is talk of all the converts Orthodoxy will get. This has been especially highlighted in the last couple of years by the imbecilic relationship Met. Jonah of the OCA has had with his conservative Anglican buddies who are, aside from sharing a religious pedigree with the man, his neo-conservative political allies. But alas, the number of conservative Anglicans and Episcopalians continues as it has for 3 decades – a trickle of a few here and a few there. Talk of all of the conservative Ft. Worth diocese converting went from the whole diocese converting, to a half dozen parishes, to a few parishes, to maybe a dozen or so persons. And the OCA was flying people out there left and right to get those big numbers in.

American Orthodox, particularly in the Antiochian Archdiocese and the OCA, are desperate for numbers, for converts, and for cultural and religio-cultural legitimacy. But in the end we are talking about a very small number of people, with no cultural impact or influence. And conversions to Orthodoxy in America, from a demographic perspective, should be taken as nothing more another expression of the more niche ends of boutique religious expressions. You can come to that niche end from the religious hipster point of view, or you can come to it as an ex-Calvinist who yet again found the perfect dogmatic structure (still comfortably hating the Pope), or you can come to it as the ex-Pentecostal who found the place to really, truly, and really feel the Spirit move, but in all such cases it is a niche socio-religious (and media) apparatus appealing to niche socio-religious desires.

6 04 2011
sortacatholic

Might I add: certainly the time-honored liturgies of the Arab, Greek, and Slavic Christians are not contrived. Their traditions are just as august as the Roman textual traditions. “Contrived” here refers to those who would rather the Roman Mass without Roman supremacy.

6 04 2011
sortacatholic

Yes, as a Catholic that is my knee-jerk reaction as well. I am especially angered and troubled especially when Protestant converts to “Western Rite Orthodoxy” claim that their mutilated English translation of the 1950/60’s recension of the [i]Missale Romanum[/i] is “pre-schism” and “the restoration of pre-heretical Western Orthodox worship.” The vintage car I learned to drive on is older than their supposed missal.

Still, if we can get beyond the mutual recriminations, I do think that a number of Protestants convert to Orthodoxy not necessarily because of overt anti-Catholicism. Some will acknowledge the anti-Catholicism of their upbringing, but will claim that their choice of Orthodoxy has more to do with, for example, a preference for economia over the Roman juridical approach to annulment and birth control.

Yes, perhaps many Protestants simply cannot surpass the notion of Petrine supremacy on either an intellectual or prejudicial level. Still, Arturo is on to something here: the Protestant emphasis on private revelation and congregational/”fellowship” polity still remains quite at odds with Roman “externalization” and religio-temporal governance. Orthodoxy in some ways resolves this impasse, even if its liturgical manifestations are contrived.

6 04 2011
o

No, they’re just anti-Catholic to the core and find it wonderful that they can “have it all”: ritual, sacraments, and Pope-hating.

6 04 2011
sortacatholic

Perhaps the current trend of evangelical and mainline Protestant conversion to Orthodoxy might provide a good starting point for this thread. Why do some former evangelical and mainline Protestants convert to Orthodoxy and not Catholicism? Does the Catholic emphasis on the “externalization” of doctrinal, dogmatic and political authority onto Petrine primacy deter some Protestants from conversion to Catholicism?

6 04 2011
Charles Curtis

You’re knocking stuff out of the park here, Arturo. That last post on god – ceiling kitty is watching you twiddle your little tweeter – was great.

I have to say that I think that things are changing – swinging back toward spectacle, ritual and a new focus on the calender.. These last few years especially. Those things are in the logic and pith of the faith, and will blossom back, even after being so harshly ripped away. The roots always bud forth the same leaf and flower when pruned. It’s been one lifetime, 40 years in the desert..

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