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Back to the Beginning: A Brief Introduction to the Ancient Catholic Church
Catholic Education ^ | November 21, 2005 | GEORGE SIM JOHNSTON

Posted on 11/21/2005 11:58:28 AM PST by NYer

The culture is now flooded with bogus scholarship whose main purpose is to put Christianity — and especially orthodox Catholicism — on the defensive. But most Catholics have no idea how to respond, and more than a few take these books and documentaries at face value. After all, they have the imprimatur of the History Channel or a large publishing house like Doubleday.



In his famous review of Leopold von Ranke's History of the Popes, Thomas Babington Macaulay, the great Victorian essayist, launches into a purple passage that Catholic students once knew by heart. It is one of the great set pieces of English writing. In it he voices the opinion that there is no subject more worthy of study than the Roman Catholic Church. "The history of that Church," he writes, "joins together the two great ages of human civilization. No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon.... The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs."

Macaulay keeps laying it on, awestruck by the Church's perdurance through the centuries. The rhetorical excess is particularly striking coming from an agnostic who regarded history as a steady climb from religious obscurantism to secular enlightenment. But Macaulay's point is always worth making: No institution in history is remotely comparable to the Catholic Church. It is a subject that well repays study. And yet most Catholics know very little about their own history.

This is unfortunate for many reasons, but especially today, when a dinner-party conversation can suddenly turn to some specious best-seller that presumes to rewrite Church history. The culture is now flooded with bogus scholarship whose main purpose is to put Christianity — and especially orthodox Catholicism — on the defensive. But most Catholics have no idea how to respond, and more than a few take these books and documentaries at face value. After all, they have the imprimatur of the History Channel or a large publishing house like Doubleday.


The new wave of anti-Catholic "scholarship" predictably revisits hot-button topics like the Inquisition and Galileo; but increasingly its focus is on the first centuries of Christianity. Its object is to make the early Church look like a bad mistake, a betrayal of Jesus' intentions, a conspiracy of dead white males obsessed with controlling their followers and, even worse, putting a lid on everyone's sexual fulfillment.


The new wave of anti-Catholic "scholarship" predictably revisits hot-button topics like the Inquisition and Galileo; but increasingly its focus is on the first centuries of Christianity. Its object is to make the early Church look like a bad mistake, a betrayal of Jesus' intentions, a conspiracy of dead white males obsessed with controlling their followers and, even worse, putting a lid on everyone's sexual fulfillment. Post-apostolic Christianity is portrayed as elitist, anti-feminist, and intent on mindless conformity — in contrast, say, to the second-century Gnostics, who apparently were as sexually enlightened as any modern professor who contributes to the Jesus Seminar.

The media have a sharp appetite for this recycling of 19th-century, anti-clerical scholarship, and so books by scholars like Gary Wills and Elaine Pagels get maximum exposure. And then there is The Da Vinci Code, which has sold a staggering nine million copies. Both the New York Times and National Public Radio seem to think that it is based on historical fact. Even its author appears to think so. But a book that claims that Christians did not believe in the divinity of Christ until the fourth century, that a Roman emperor chose the four Gospels, that the Church executed five million witches, and that Opus Dei has monks is obviously little more than a farrago of nonsense.

We live in a sea of false historiography, and so it is worth asking: What exactly happened during the first centuries of Christianity? How did a small band of believers, starting out in a despised outpost of the Roman Empire, end up the dominant institution of the Mediterranean world? What was "primitive Christianity"? John Henry Newman became a Catholic in the course of answering that question. History, he said, is the enemy of Protestantism. It is also the enemy of the newly vigorous anti-Catholicism that circulates among our cultural elites.

  

In the Beginning

The word gospel means "good news," and the first thing to say about the early Church is that its members had an urgent message for a civilization that already contained the seeds of its own demise. Early Christianity was above all a missionary enterprise, an evangelical movement in a world ripe for its teachings. At the end of his public life Christ had said to His disciples, "Go"; and, in addition to the journeys recorded in the New Testament, tradition has the apostles spreading all over the map: Thomas to Parthia and India, Andrew and John to Asia Minor, Bartholomew to south Arabia. Each may have undergone exploits as spectacular as St. Paul's, but unfortunately there was no St. Luke to record them.

Early Church Fathers like St. Augustine believed that Providence had arranged ancient history so that Christianity could spread as rapidly as possible. The Pax Romana was a remarkable achievement, and the general law and order, combined with Roman road-building, made it easier to get around Europe at the time of Tiberius and Claudius than it would be a thousand years later. There was also a widespread Hellenistic culture, which meant that many people spoke Greek. This was the legacy of Alexander the Great, who not only spread a common tongue but, like other rulers of that era, had a mania for building cities. The large concentration of urban dwellers made evangelization more efficient, and within the space of about a century we find Christianity flourishing in all the vital nerve-centers of the Roman empire, which had a population of about 60 million.

The great tipping points of history often occur beneath the radar, and it is doubtful that anyone in the year 51 noticed an itinerant rabbi from Tarsus crossing the Aegean Sea into Macedonia. But this was Christianity's entrance into Western Europe, with incalculable consequences for the future. Christopher Dawson writes that Paul's passage from Troas in Asia Minor to Philippi did more to shape the subsequent history of Europe than anything recorded by the great historians of the day. Put simply: The Faith created modern Europe, and Europe created the modern world.

What Paul and other missionaries found everywhere in the Roman Empire was a spiritual vacuum: The Roman gods, practically speaking, were dead, the victims of much scoffing from intellectuals and poets. The upper orders had turned to Stoicism — self-cultivating itself in aristocratic isolation — but this spoke only to a small minority. Others with spiritual hankerings went to more dubious sources: mystery cults, Asiatic magic, exotic neo-Platonisms, whose goal was ecstatic visions and emotional release. There was a lot of philosophical mumbo jumbo in an atmosphere of tent revivalism, with a dash of emperor worship on the side. But no matter where it turned for solace, the late classical mind was steeped in melancholy, a kind of glacial sadness; it was utterly lacking in what Catholics would call the theological virtue of hope.


Since The Da Vinci Code and other dubious best-sellers claim that early Christianity was anti-feminist, it's worth recalling that large numbers of women during these centuries thought otherwise....No world religion has ever given women a more important place than Roman Catholicism.


Apart from offering infinitely greater spiritual riches, Christianity gave the ancient world what might be called a New Deal. In the year that Paul arrived in Rome, there was a sensational incident, the sort of thing that today would make the cover of the New York Post. The prefect of Rome, Pedanius Secundus, was murdered by a slave who was jealous of his master's attention to a slave girl. According to Roman law, all the slaves in the household were to be put to death — which in this case meant more than 400 slaves. There were protests, but the emperor and Senate went ahead with the executions. It is not surprising, then, that the "have-nots," who constituted most of the empire, responded to the Christian message that every person has an equal and inherent dignity, and that even the emperor (as St. Ambrose would later explain to Theodosius) was within and not above the law.

Since The Da Vinci Code and other dubious best-sellers claim that early Christianity was anti-feminist, it's worth recalling that large numbers of women during these centuries thought otherwise. The Church's teachings about marriage and family, along with its strictures against divorce, abortion, and the exposure of newborn babies — all of which a pagan husband could force his wife to do, no questions asked — resonated with women who were treated like chattel under the old dispensation. In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke goes out of his way to mention female converts like Lydia and Damaris. Even at this early date, women played a key role in the Church's evangelical mission. No world religion has ever given women a more important place than Roman Catholicism. Even Protestantism would turn out to be largely a male enterprise.

  

Preserving the Traditions

These early Christians were conscious of a single responsibility that transcended and sustained all others. They were bound to preserve with the utmost fidelity what had been taught by the apostles. Long before there was a New Testament, there was a deposit of faith concerning the nature of God, His threefold personality, His purpose in making man, the Incarnation. It is already presupposed in the early letters of Paul as well as ancient documents like the Didache. Any departure from these teachings provoked the strongest possible response, and the Acts of the Apostles and most of Paul's letters show the Church facing her first doctrinal and disciplinary problems.

The determination to hold fast to "what has been handed on" (tradere, hence "tradition") is one explanation for the early Christian's veneration of the episcopal office. If there has been a revelation, then there must be an authoritative teaching office to tell us what it is. And so the role of bishops — whose job was, and still is, to teach, govern, and sanctify — was crucial from the beginning.

We do not know the precise details of how the Church's internal authority evolved in the first century. It is one of the most debated points of Church history. Protestants have an obvious bias toward an early congregationalism, but there is little evidence for this. We do know that from the original "twelve" there soon emerged a hierarchical church divided into clergy and laity. It seems that at first there were apostolic delegates, people like Timothy and Titus, who derived their authority from one of the apostles — in this case, Paul. These men governed the local churches under the apostles' direction, and, while some apostles were still on the scene, this arrangement naturally evolved into the college of bishops.


What was "primitive Christianity"? John Henry Newman became a Catholic in the course of answering that question. History, he said, is the enemy of Protestantism. It is also the enemy of the newly vigorous anti-Catholicism that circulates among our cultural elites.


The seven great letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch, written around the year 106 while on his way to Rome to be thrown to the beasts, take for granted the existence of local hierarchical churches, ruled by bishops who are assisted by priests and deacons. Ignatius, a living disciple of John the Apostle, writes that "Jesus Christ...is the will of the Father, just as the bishops, who have been appointed throughout the world, are the will of Jesus Christ. Let us be careful, then, if we would be submissive to God, not to oppose the bishop."

Within each city there was a single church under a bishop, who in turn was assisted by priests in the spiritual realm and deacons in the administrative. The latter devoted themselves especially to alms-giving, and a striking feature of primitive Christianity is its organized benevolence. These local churches were largely self-sufficient but would group around a mother church in the region — Antioch, Alexandria, Rome — and the bishops of each region would occasionally meet in councils. But they all considered themselves part of a universal Church — the Catholic Church, as Ignatius first called it — united in belief, ritual, and regulation.

From the earliest times we find one of these churches exercising a special role, acting as a higher authority and final court of appeal. We don't know much about the early development of the Roman church, and the lists of the first popes are not always consistent. But we do know that around the year 90 a three-man embassy bearing a letter from Rome traveled to Corinth, where there were dissensions in the local church. In that letter, Pope St. Clement speaks with authority, giving instructions in a tone of voice that expects to be obeyed. The interesting point is that the apostle John was still living in Ephesus, which is closer than Rome to Corinth. But it was Rome (at the time, a smaller diocese) that dealt with the problem. Here was the prototype of all future Roman interventions.

It is not difficult to find even liberal Catholic scholars who endorse the early primacy of Rome. In his popular history of the papacy, Saints and Sinners, Eamon Duffy writes that the apostolic succession of the Chair of Peter "rests on traditions which stretch back to the very beginning of the written records of Christianity." Around the year 180, St. Irenaeus, battling heretics who presumed to correct and supplement the Faith with their Gnostic speculations, wrote that if anyone wishes to know true Christian doctrine, he has only to find those churches with a line of bishops going back to one of the apostles. But it is simpler, and suffices, to find out the teaching of the Roman see: "For with this Church all other churches must bring themselves into line, on account of its superior authority."

  

Worship in the Ancient Church

The early Church was not only hierarchical, it was liturgical and sacramental. But it was above all Eucharistic. St. Ignatius, in his letter to the church at Smyrna, attacks local heretics who "abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of Our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins...." By the year 150, when St. Justin Martyr described the Sunday liturgy in some detail, all the principal elements of the Mass are in place: Scriptural readings, prayers of intercession, offertory, Eucharistic prayer, and communion. There was no need back then to remind the faithful that Sunday Mass attendance was obligatory, since they regarded the liturgy as absolutely central to their lives as Christians. It would not have occurred to them to forgo Sunday Mass for a brunch date or ballgame.

The readings at these early Masses were from both the Old Testament (then simply called "Scripture") and from many (but not all) of the documents that eventually would comprise the New Testament. And how did the New Testament canon come together? Although some Protestants seem to think otherwise, this was not a spontaneous process. Humanly speaking, it involved a lot of institutional machinery. The 27 books themselves were a kind of providential accident. Christ Himself did not write anything, nor (so far as we know) did He tell His disciples to write anything. There is, after all, something about hearing, rather than just reading, the Christian message. "Faith comes by hearing," writes Paul, who, even though a scholar, does not say "by reading." Books are wonderful evangelical tools, but it is still true that most conversions are brought about by personal witness.

In the ancient Middle East, the preferred medium for passing on the teachings of a religious master was oral, and people had strongly trained memories. Christ spoke in the traditional rhythms of Jewish speech, often using parallelisms that are easy to remember: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The Old Testament is shot through with this kind of mnemonic device. Christ's immediate disciples probably did not write down His words during His lifetime. Being a close-knit Jewish community with a strong oral tradition, they didn't have to.

But as time went by and the Church spread out, the danger of inaccurate reporting grew. This was especially true when Christianity moved into the Greek-speaking cities of Asia Minor and Macedon, where the habit of oral transmission was not strong. So the practice of giving the earliest Christian missionaries little books, or manuals, with the sayings and miracles of Jesus may have arisen. If there was such a document, it has not survived. Yet scholars reasonably posit an ur-document they call Q, which is said to be a sourcebook for the Gospels.

So far so good. But now the mischief begins. For heterodox academics, Q is a wonderfully convenient document. Since we don't have a copy, they can ascribe to it whatever they think authentic in the four Gospels and dismiss everything else as later interpolations. According to this scenario, the Gospel writers took a hard historical document and added a lot of mythology. The Jesus Seminar, which plays the media like a wind instrument, assumes a priori that Jesus was not divine, did not perform miracles, never intended to found a church, and did not take a hard line on extramarital sex. And so it flatly asserts that none of these things was in Q. According to this view, the later Gospels, with their miracles and claims of Christ's divinity, were concocted for selfaggrandizing purposes by power-hungry churchmen.

But we may leave the Jesus Seminar to find out what really happened. First, the scholarly consensus is that the three synoptic Gospels were written much earlier than heterodox "experts" wish us to think: Between 50 and 65 A.D. John's Gospel was written last, perhaps as late as 95, when John, the only apostle not martyred, was a very old man. More than any documents in history, these four books have been the target of the "hermeneutics of suspicion." It is therefore worth pointing out that the four evangelists were closer to their material than were most ancient historians. The biographers of the caesars — Tacitus and Suetonius — were not better placed to get accurate information about their subject than were the evangelists about the life of Christ.

Even though the four Gospel writers differ markedly from one another and have diverse agendas — Matthew is proselytizing his fellow Jews, Luke is fact-gathering for Gentile converts, Mark relates Peter's version of events, John is responding to heresies that deny the Incarnation — the striking thing is how strong, consistent, and identifiable the personality of Christ is in all four books. C. S. Lewis remarks that in all the world's narrative literature, there are three personalities you can identify immediately if given a random and even partial quotation: Plato's Socrates, Boswell's Johnson, and Jesus Christ of the Gospels.

Most of the documents in the New Testament are ad hoc; they address specific issues that arose in the early Church, and none claims to present the whole of Christian revelation. It's doubtful that Paul even suspected that his short letter to Philemon begging pardon for a renegade slave would someday be read as Holy Scripture. Moreover, there is no list of canonical books anywhere in the Bible, nor does any book (with the exception of John's apocalypse) claim to be inspired.

Who, then, decided that these books were Scripture? The Catholic Church. And it took several centuries to do so. It was not until the letters and decrees of two popes and three regional councils near the end of the fourth century that the Catholic Church had a fixed canon. Prior to that date, scores of spurious gospels and "apostolic" writings were circulating around the Mediterranean basin: The Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, Paul's Letter to the Laodiceans, and so forth. Moreover, some texts later judged to be inspired, such as the Letter to the Hebrews, were controverted, and there were also cogent arguments to jettison the Old Testament. All these issues were sorted out by the hierarchy, and, as Augustine logically remarks, it is only on the authority of the Catholic Church that we accept any book of Scripture.

  

A Theological Parasite


To paraphrase Hilaire Belloc, there was no such thing as a religion called "primitive Christianity." There is and always has been the Church, founded by Christ around the year 30 A.D. That Church has always been hierarchical and sacramental. And it saved Western Europe from both pagan barbarism and Eastern nihilism.


One set of writings that did not make the canon were the so-called Gnostic gospels, which get such loving attention in PBS documentaries. Ancient Gnosticism is enjoying a bull market among modern intellectuals, but the early Church fought it tooth-and-nail because it correctly perceived how dangerous it was. It was an amorphous creed — an intellectual atmosphere, really — that had its roots in India and Persia. It purported to be a way of knowledge (gnosis), of seizing divine secrets and harnessing divine energies. It solved the problem of evil by claiming that the universe was not God's creation, but the work of a demiurge — some lower god or angel up to no good — and that all physical creation, especially the human body, is intrinsically evil.

Mired in the evil of creation, the Gnostic sought liberation by joining an elite band of believers who through gnosis — arcane speculation, philosophical pirouetting, secret verbal formulas — sought to obtain Promethean control of the spiritual realm. The object was a mystical knowledge that separated the believer not only from the corrupt world but also (and even better) from his neighbors. The initiate, moreover, was above sexual taboos, since the body is of no account. The resulting mixture of hedonism and mystical exclusivity was heady stuff, and the power of Gnosticism to assimilate elements from any source — Platonism, Persian dualism, even Judaism — made it very dangerous when it encountered Christianity and tried to subsume it into a higher and more beguiling synthesis.

Gnosticism's attempt to insert itself into Christianity involved the production of its own scripture, which it tried to smuggle into the Christian canon. The most famous Gnostic text, the Gospel of Thomas, comprises 114 "secret" sayings of Jesus. You don't have to read more than a few of them to recognize that the author has simply skimmed material from the original Gospels and given it a strange "spiritual" twist. Christ is now something of a Magus, a shadowy dispenser of puzzles and gnomic utterances. He bears no resemblance to the Christ of the four evangelists.

In her best-selling books, Pagels makes much of these "forbidden gospels" whose message — despite the occasional anti-feminist hiccup — gives her a fuzzy inner feeling. It seems that the modern Gnostic can retreat into a cozy realm of the spirit and then do whatever he or she pleases. There are no dogmas or commandments to scandalize the post-Christian academic mind. Pagels plays down the intellectual rubbish in these documents, and she's not entirely forthcoming about their elitism and anti-Jewish bias. And finally, it's ridiculous to speak of the Church's exclusion of these spurious second-century documents as a power play by a self-appointed male hierarchy bent on eliminating genuine spiritual impulses. Pagels ought to read the lives of the saints, which include not a few early popes and bishops.

  

How the Church Saved Civilization

The Church did Western civilization a huge favor in beating back these esoteric, anti-humanist ideas, as it would in the 13th century when it crushed the Cathar heresy, another nihilistic doctrine that had blown into Europe on the winds from Persia. In fact, no institution has done more for the surrounding culture than the Catholic Church. And it is identifiably itself from the beginning. To paraphrase Hilaire Belloc, there was no such thing as a religion called "primitive Christianity." There is and always has been the Church, founded by Christ around the year 30 A.D. That Church has always been hierarchical and sacramental. And it saved Western Europe from both pagan barbarism and Eastern nihilism.

In fact, almost everything we value in our civilization — hospitals, museums, universities, the idea of human rights — is by origin Catholic. These things did not come from the Vikings or northern German tribes; they certainly did not come from the Gnostics. But our modern secular culture displays a willful amnesia on the subject of our Catholic patrimony. The technocrats currently drafting a new constitution for the European Union don't even want to hear about it. As Chesterton quipped, first Catholic, then forgotten. Perhaps we can change that by getting out a clearer picture of the splendors and perils of the early Church.


TOPICS: Activism; Apologetics; Catholic; Ecumenism; History; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: churchhistory
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To: djrakowski

The Roman church tolerates married clergy in the eastern church in an attempt to convert orthodox in the eastern countries.

Forcing priests to take a vow of celibacy is not at all like FASTING periods.

2 cases of abuse are par for the course, they are not the epidemic (nor the MASSIVE administrative cover up) that has shown itself in the catholic church.

There was actually one single case of a monastary where the leading bishop was gay and leading the flock astray near boston; the whole monastary was excommunicated.

Further Corinthians 14 doesn't say it is OPTIONAL Paul says it is a commandment from the Lord:
1Cr 14:34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but [they are commanded] to be under obedience, as also saith the law.


1Cr 14:35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.


1Cr 14:36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?


1Cr 14:37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.


41 posted on 11/22/2005 4:41:21 AM PST by x5452
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To: djrakowski

Further from Paul:
1Cr 11:3 But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.
1Cr 11:4 Every man who has {something} on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head.
1Cr 11:5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.
1Cr 11:6 For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.
1Cr 11:7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.


42 posted on 11/22/2005 4:52:01 AM PST by x5452
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To: x5452

1Cr 11:4 Every man who has {something} on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head.

Here's a description of Syriac Orthodox vestments that include head coverings for the priest: http://sor.cua.edu/Vestments/

"The priest then puts on the phiro (lit. 'fruit'), a small black cap which the priest must wear during all public prayers. It consists of seven sections which indicate the full priesthood of the celebrant. Bishops including the Patriarch wear it under the Eskimo."

Are Syriac Orthodox priests bringing disgrace upon themselves? After all, they're required to lead prayers with their heads covered...


43 posted on 11/22/2005 4:59:53 AM PST by djrakowski
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To: djrakowski

Here is a site dedicated to preventing abuse in the Orthodox church:
http://www.pokrov.org/Abusers/perpetrators.html

They have found about 20 cases nation wide.

How many has the Catholic church found nation wide? How many were covered up?

Why would you enter the church in America knowing the problem is epidemic?

Also, FWIW, I was raised in a Catholic school, and it was at Catholic school they encouraged us to experience the Orthodox church (during one of the periods of heightened interest in ending the schism).


44 posted on 11/22/2005 5:04:54 AM PST by x5452
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To: x5452

"Why would you enter the church in America knowing the problem is epidemic?"

Truth is truth regardless of how badly some under its mantle adhere to it. And you haven't been to my parish, which is a oasis of orthodox Catholicism in a desert of modernism.

Why, on the other hand, would I wade into the doctrinal confusion that appears to be Orthodoxy? I can't find any substantial agreement within Orthodoxy on whether they permit divorce, or don't. Or whether they permit contraception, or don't. Or on whether truth is truth regardless of people's acceptance of it, or whether the people have to consent before it becomes truth. Or even on banal matters, such as whether a priest should or should not cover his head while praying.


45 posted on 11/22/2005 5:14:00 AM PST by djrakowski
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To: djrakowski

http://sor.cua.edu/Ecumenism/

The Romans have standing ecumenical agreements with this church.

Further the Syriac Orthodox are an autocephalous church; self governing, and separate. In fact they are not in communion with many Orthodox churches.

They aren't even a result of the same schism.

http://www.answers.com/topic/syriac-orthodox-church
The Syriac Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox church based in the Middle East with members spread throughout the world. It is one of the five churches that comprised what is now the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church before the Great Schism.


46 posted on 11/22/2005 5:17:05 AM PST by x5452
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To: djrakowski

you speak of orthodoxy as though it is some all encompassing group.

I have repeatedly shown you the example of ROCOR which is as close to the early church as you will ever get, and there is no doctrinal confusion.

FTR the Catholic doctrine on evolution, as well as divorce, abortion, and contraception is confused. I have had catholic freinds ask church officials and get differing answers on ALL of those.


47 posted on 11/22/2005 5:19:03 AM PST by x5452
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To: x5452

ping for later


48 posted on 11/22/2005 5:22:41 AM PST by opticks
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To: x5452

"you speak of orthodoxy as though it is some all encompassing group."
"I have repeatedly shown you the example of ROCOR which is as close to the early church as you will ever get, and there is no doctrinal confusion."

You contradict yourself. Orthodoxy is not one all-encompassing group, but I should refer to the ROCOR as the gold standard of Orthodox doctrine. How do you reconcile these two statements?

"FTR the Catholic doctrine on evolution, as well as divorce, abortion, and contraception is confused. I have had catholic freinds ask church officials and get differing answers on ALL of those."

The manner of creation is not dogmatically declared (nor does it need to be, in my opinion). Divorce, abortion and contraception are very clear, beyond a shadow of a doubt. The opinions of dissenters do not matter, since they do not line up with the doctrines expressed within, among other places, the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Consider the following quotes from the Catechism that refute your claim of doctrinal confusion on just these two matters of abortion and contraception:

2399 The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).

2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil:

Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. . . . The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.

2322 From its conception, the child has the right to life. Direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, is a "criminal" practice (GS 27 § 3), gravely contrary to the moral law. The Church imposes the canonical penalty of excommunication for this crime against human life.

Nothing confusing about this, except for those who would choose to dissent from revealed truth...


49 posted on 11/22/2005 5:32:46 AM PST by djrakowski
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To: NYer

Thanks for posting this! I've printed for later reading and I sent the link to a friend.


50 posted on 11/22/2005 5:44:51 AM PST by Convert from ECUSA (It really, truly is a "religion of peace", and the jihadistinian rioters in France prove it!)
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To: Kolokotronis; djrakowski; x5452
As Orthodox, we believe that the Roman system has lead to error and innovation but we also recognize the historical fact that the proper exercise of the Petrine Office also, on numerous occasions in the Pre Schism Church, assured the survival of Orthodoxy against the assaults of heretical groups

And that is a very important point to remember! Orthodoxy, as well as Roman Catholicism, by and of themselves did not stop heresy. Obviously, the Church is stronger when it is united. A divided Church in not immune from corruption and fallout, and history proves it.

Were it not for the Orthodox Popes, the East would most probaly have slipped into Monothelism or Arianism, or Monophysitism, as what happened with the so-called Oriental Orthodox Churches. At the same time, it is obvious that had the Latin Church not fallen victim to its own innovations, the Protestant tragedy would most probably have been averted. But by that time the whole concept of the Petrine Office was redefined and the Orthodoxy was not there to counter-balance their errors.

It is therefore obvious that only an undivided Church can resist the gates of hell. As the saying says -- united, we stand; divided, we fall. The hierarchs of both sides of the divide now more than ever recognize it and are bent on overcoming that which divides us.

51 posted on 11/22/2005 5:46:54 AM PST by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: notsofastmyfriend
I find that I am very interested in the history of the Church - do you have any recommendations on a book to read this holiday season?

Oh my ... where to begin? An excellent resource is Ignatius Press. And, of course, EWTN's Religious Catalog

52 posted on 11/22/2005 6:04:34 AM PST by NYer (ôSocialism is the religion people get when they lose their religion")
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To: djrakowski

You pick at obscure eastern church on the footsteps of full communion with the Roman church and use that as the pinnical of Orthodoxy?

The fact is there are Catholic bishops openly endorse homosexuality, contraception, abortion, etc. The Catholic bishop is the make and break of doctrine within the diocease.

I am well aware the 'official word' on Catholisim I had my Catholic education in a Catholic school with Catholic education materials. I am also extremely aware that precious few Catholics follow this.

Even if Catholic DID follow it to the letter it would not change the fact that Catholic innovations like papal supremacy, papal infailibility, and the Filioque are heretical.

The Roman church abandoned the truth in 1054 and the result was protestantism, and things like today's rampant homosexuality and child abuse in the church.

It is this continuing heresy that is the root of the Catholic church's problem.

The Orthodox church has Christ as it's head. The Catholics instead have a man (and one who has long since been outside the bloodline of Peter).


53 posted on 11/22/2005 6:09:42 AM PST by x5452
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To: djrakowski; x5452; Kolokotronis; Agrarian
I see nothing about the sacrament of marriage in this description of divorce and remarriage within Orthodoxy - only situations

Well, if there is no love and commitment there is no marriage. A paper does not make a marriage, and a sacrament that is given under false pretenses is not valid because we would say it is "empty," and you would say it is "null and void." Of course, that which is void is also empty and meaningless and therefore, legally, not valid.

A candle lit in a church by someone who doesn't believe is an empty gesture, void of spiritual value. A Communion taken by someone who did not prepare correctly for it and doe snot believe in the Real Presence is not a valid Communion.

You see it from a legalistic point of view -- and call it annulment. You are stating that the sacrament never occurred, that it did not have a "legal bind," did not take effect, so to say, and therefore there was no marriage. The Orthodox are saying that a "marriage" in which there is no love and commitment is no marriage, but a broken promise to God -- a sin, and that which is sin is not of God.

Thus, real marriage cannot be broken because it is of God. All the Orthodox Church recognizes is that there was no marriage because where there is no love and commitment there can be no marriage. If you go for a confession and lie and the priest, in his ignorance of your lie, "absolves" you of the trespasses -- you and I both know that such absolution is "invalid." It is an empty gesture which the priests does in good faith, but God knows that it is not so. So, the absolution never took place; your sins are not forgiven. Legally, it is null and void, and spiritually it is an empty and meaningless gesture -- a sin.

One more thing: the Orthodox may allow a second marriage; allowing a third one is something unheard of. Knowing that a sin was committed in the first one, the second (and it is hoped that it is the first real) one is more like a funeral, full of penance and contrition.

On the other hand, the Catholic Church does not specify how many annulments one can get, but I am sure an "abuser" would be cut short very soon, regardless of how many time one can "legally" get an annulment!

54 posted on 11/22/2005 6:19:16 AM PST by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: kosta50; djrakowski; Kolokotronis; Agrarian
For reference here is the same scriptural passages both Churches base the possibility of remarriage on:

Mat 5:31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:

Mat 5:32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Mat 19:7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

Mat 19:8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

Mat 19:9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except [it be] for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

Mat 19:10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with [his] wife, it is not good to marry.

Mat 19:11 But he said unto them, All [men] cannot receive this saying, save [they] to whom it is given.

1Cr 7:7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.

1Cr 7:8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.

1Cr 7:9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

1Cr 7:10 And unto the married I command, [yet] not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from [her] husband:

1Cr 7:11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to [her] husband: and let not the husband put away [his] wife.

Both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Doctrine exemplify these passages, and it's silly to debate topics on which the churches already agree.

Ecumenical Relations between Orthodox churches and the Roman catholic church have never been about remarriage or contraception, they've been about Papal Supremacy, and infallibility.
55 posted on 11/22/2005 6:48:33 AM PST by x5452
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To: djrakowski

Welcome home!


56 posted on 11/22/2005 6:59:25 AM PST by nanetteclaret (Our Lady's Hat Society)
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To: Kolokotronis
Dogma isn't dogma until the people accept it. Once accepted, it can't be changed. The only ones to do that were the Romans with the filioque

Dogma wasn't changed with the filioque. It is just a re-wording. But our creed, what is says, remains - we still believe that there is only one principle operating within the Divine Godhead, not two (Father AND Son). Perhaps a better word would have been "through". But at any rate, no dogma changed. The Catechim clearly explains that there is only one essence from which the Spirit proceeds from - and is clear that the Spirit is a result of both the Father and the Son's love for each other.

Brother in Christ

57 posted on 11/22/2005 7:04:49 AM PST by jo kus
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To: Kolokotronis
The Orthodox system is one of "syndeesmos" or a sort of partnership among the hierarchs, clergy and the laity, each having its own function and proper role and together making up The Church. The Roman Church is a top down system. In Orthodoxy, infallibilty rests with The Church while in the Roman system it dogmatically rests with the Pope;

That hardly describes the situation on the ground. A cursory view of the Church's life in the US will shatter the illusion that the Church is top-down here! Consider the many bishops who openly flaunt correction from Rome. If Rome was such an autocratic monarchy that you portray, we'd see bishops removed from office (perhaps many would desire this). As to Councils and Dogma, the Pope has rarely executed the Extraordinary charism that was defined at Vatican 1. I count two occasions in the past 150 years. Not the definition of a top-down organization. The individuals bishops have are relatively autonomous. Sure, occasionaly they must answer to Rome, such as on the priest's sexual abuse issues. But really, Rome is not a force at the local level.

Brother in Christ

58 posted on 11/22/2005 7:11:54 AM PST by jo kus
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To: jo kus
Just read an article in another thread where the pope excommunicated a priest (somewhere in england or Australia i think) that seems like top down correction to me.
59 posted on 11/22/2005 7:16:17 AM PST by x5452
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To: x5452
2 cases of abuse are par for the course, they are not the epidemic (nor the MASSIVE administrative cover up) that has shown itself in the catholic church.

Some comments are in order here.

First, you are confusing what happened in the US with the entire Catholic Church. Despite what many Americans think, we are not the center of the world. The Catholic Church in America represents less than 10% of Roman Catholicism. Let's not lose sight of that fact. America is not the Catholic Church's paradigm!

Second of all, as terrible a job as the Bishops did, one must recognize that part of the problem was the advice they received from PROFESSIONAL psychologists! Upon THEIR advice, the bishops placed these priests in a short 1-2 month program, declared them cured, and sent them to other churches. ONLY NOW do we know that the disease that leads to sexual abuse is akin to alcoholism. It is not "cured" ever. It is only held in check. This doesn't excuse the Bishops actions, but we should take into account what they knew and were told by "experts".

And finally, there is a lot of doubt on the merit of the majority of the cases. While the first cases were certainly legitimate, I think most doubt that 5-10 years later, some of these people suddenly "remembered" that they, too, were abused 30 years ago - and wanted financial compensation. Because of the Church's desire to not defend these priests who were often accused on very flimsy grounds, many lay people were led to believe that they could make an easy buck off the Church's problem.

And finally, one must realize that the Church ALWAYS goes through such scandals. Remember when the Church in the East was nearly all Arian? That's the nature of the beast. Unfortunately, the US bishops of the 1960's were not punished for their open dissent from the "contraception" encyclical. This attitude led, I believe, to the acceptance of the American culture's sexual ways within the Church heirarchy here. This in turn eventually bred the sexual abuse cases. When the Church tries to follow the culture rather than God, the Church inevitably will stumble, whether it is following Greek philosphy or loose sexual morals.

Regards

60 posted on 11/22/2005 7:26:43 AM PST by jo kus
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