Skip to comments.Back to the Beginning: A Brief Introduction to the Ancient Catholic Church
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No I expect you to beleive we don't have secret seminaries where there's gay priests fornicating in every room, and giving the eucharist to dogs.
This is actually a situation that deserves swift Vatican top-down action. There is an infection in the American Catholic church going back decades and it will not heal over night.
Further this whole problem begins in 1054 when the pope leaves the apostolic church and declares himself the end all be all maker and breaker of doctrine, then one of his successors decides that priest shouldn't marry since they may create rich dynastys of priests, instead of giving their wealth to the church; making the church a haven for men who are uninterested in traditional marriage and looking to cover up their behavior. After this seed of evil entered the church the bishops completely droped the ball and instead of extinguishing it outright they spread it around the whole church.
Were the shared group of patriarch still in communion at that time they would have intervened in the heresey of requiring men to take a vow of celibacy to enter the priesthood, the whole problem would have been tackled long before it became an infection.
Where you live may determine your proximaty to those orthodox who do evangelize. The orthodox churches in America lack the political and financial muscle of the Roman church. As I mentioned it was my Catholic religion class teacher who encouraged us to visit an Orthodox church.
"I said it was an example of top down exercising of authority because another poster was denying that the modern Catholic church ever does that. Again I am all for patriarchs exercising their authority. Though strictly speaking they should be doing so in their canonical churchs."
I understand what you're saying, and I don't disagree with you that there is a difference in ecclesiology between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. I just don't think the example you used illustrates the differences.
"As for the sinless not sinless silliness its not the true debate."
Okay. I was only responding to what you posted:
"[Further I resent the notion that the pope is ... sinless...]"
I merely wanted to clarify that we don't think he's sinless, either.
I wasn't using it as an example of that [difference in ecclesiology between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches].
I was using it as an example of the Vatican intervening in local affairs, which Jo kus had said is rare.
Orthodoxy is growing primarily from within. Many other churches, including the Catholics, can still make that claim. It is true that the orthodox are making converts from within evangelicallism. That's not necessarily a bad thing. But, come on. This is an *extremely* recent phenomenon, and it's powered as much by the evangelicals' reflexive aversion for the papacy as it is a search for Christian roots. Orthodoxy benefits because such folks hate the pope more than they hate what they think is the idolatry of Mary, and, when they see that there is no idolatry or any other thing in Orthodoxy that they had reason to abhor, they flock to it. Their only remaining aversion is for the guy in Rome, so your apostolic nature in your Church suffices for them. Meanwhile, it's not like we Catholics don't make *any* converts in these circles!
As for Alaska, I grant you that. But it was still evangelized primarily as an eastward expansion of Russian Siberia. Hardly any native populations even existed in most od Siberia, and Alaska, while more densely populated, still was rather sparse, and the evangelization was comingled with Russian government and Russian Orthodox interests. That still bears out my point. They have been nowhere in Africa, Asia, Europe or the Americas where they didn't already exist prior to the age of exploration, Siberia and Alaska excepted. For the reasons I cited.
The Old Calendar is 13 days off from the equinoxes. That is undeniable. Left unchecked, it will drift further. One day, given enough time, you will be celebrating Easter in October according to the Julian calendar. That even civil governments in Orthodox countries see the utility in realigning the calendar to reflect the seasons properly points out that there is no need for being so dug in liturgical uses. The Jews have nothing to do with it. They use an entirely different calendar that is bsed on lunar cycles, not a solar year. Their Passover and our Easter better coincide, because they simply take place on the day of the first full moon after the spring equinox (Passover), or the following Sunday (Western Easter). Since the Orthodox Julian calendar still nominally determines Easter based on an assumption of March 21 being the date of the equinox, but, in reality, their March 21 is only March 8, and therefore too early, they often have to wait for the second full moon after the actual equinox to determine Easter. Occasionally, when the full moon after the equinox is far enough ahead, it will fall after March 21 in BOTH calendars. But, when it occurs at other times (usually the case), the Orthodox are forced to wait till the next lunar cycle so that it "appears" to be after March 21 on their calendar. Early May is sometimes the result for Orthodox Easter. When Julian March 21 appears later and later relative to the Gregorian, it will be even further removed from the actual equinox, more lunations will have to pass, and Orthodox Easter will be heading into June, then July, and so forth. Astronomically, this situation makes absolutely no sense at all. It's time for us to all be on the same page in this. The Gregorian calendar is simply better. Let's get on with it.
National traditions are not the same as national churches. All Catholic nationalities are still united to the papacy, regardles of his or their actual ethnicity. People may have traditions as Germans, or Italians, or Polish, etc., but they all recognize the one head. This is not true in Orthodoxy. THAT kind of nationalism is what I'm talking about.
Finally, I hope you read my post where I *specifically* cited the Orthodox for their courage in resisting the Communists, the Moslems, and others in their countries. What makes you think I didn't? You claim that the popes were "resting" in Rome while bishops were being murdered in Russia. Nonsense. What were they supposed to do? They did what they could. So, I'm sure, did the Patriarchs of Constantinople involved at the time. Yet, I dare say, THEY saw all of these murders take place in Russia while they were comfortably ensconced in Istanbul. So what's your point? I NEVER said the Orthodox "had it easy" in Russia against the Soviets. Read the post again.
Well, I feel like we're beginning to strain at gnats, but I'll give it one last shot.
In post #39, you described differences between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches:
"Well, you demonstrate one of the differences between the One Church of the 7 Ecumenical Councils and what developed in the West. 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."
This is what I meant by a difference in ecclesiology - that is the structure and proper governance of the Church.
Jo kus replied to you in #58:
"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!"
He is disputing your characterization of the Catholic Church as being "top-down," in response to your prior post, which seems to clearly point out a difference in ecclesiology. By the way, I agree with you about that difference.
You replied in #59:
"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."
This note by you seems to be presented as evidence of the difference between our Churches.
My point is only that this doesn't seem to actually demonstrate the difference that you expressed. Whether you characterize it as a difference in ecclesiology (which seems to me to be what you expressed in #39) or that the Catholic Church is top-down and the Orthodox are not, this demonstrates neither. The reason why is that, I believe (correct me if I'm wrong), in a similar situation, an Orthodox Patriarch would do something similar.
The priest in the article is an actual apostate, having decided, a few decades ago, to follow a non-Christian "prophet." Apparently, after over 20 years of remonstrating with him, the Church, on the authority of the Patriarch of Rome, excommunicated him.
Other than maybe not taking so long to act, would an Orthodox Patriarch have not acted to excommunicate such a priest?
I pinged Kolokotronis because he seems quite knowledgeable of the ins-and-outs of how Orthodox do things ecclesiologically.
I think the would and should in that situation as I've said.
I understand your concern. However, I would like to comment. Feel free to respond.
First, the Church, even before the Great Schism, has been as you describe above. Perhaps not to the same degree, but we can easily find entire areas that were swept up in heresy. Must I remind you of Arianism again? The majority of Eastern Churches at the time were Arian, against the Catholic belief AND practice of the time. In other words, EVEN the Arians WORSHIP Christ as God. Thus, it is not uncommon for worship to become separated from doctrinal definitions.
Next, I strongly disagree with your generalization that "all" Catholics that you meet do not follow their Church's teaching. That is a generalization that I don't find to be true. Sure, there are many who don't believe this or that. They have not been properly catechized. But there still are a number of the "silent majority" who continue to believe what the Church teaches, and practices it.
In a perfect world, everyone would believe the same thing and doctrine would reflect that. But man is sinful and proud. Thus, even within the Church, we will find people who disagree with Catholic (or Orthodox) teachings. Also, the Bible mentions having to deal with lukewarm Christians, or what we call nominal Catholics. They are Catholic in name only. The Spirit comes to those who OPEN themselves to Him, not just because they had an official Baptism/Confirmation. We each must have a conversion experience, even those who are born into the faith. Otherwise, the Spirit is pushed out. People here in America are very much tempted by the culture. Not only to follow materialistic ways, but to think that the Church is a democracy and that people can believe what they want. As an Orthodox, you should be able to understand that man's reason is insufficient to come to the knowledge of Christ.
I don't find that agreement on heresies as a sign of a good Church. Just because people agree on an error doesn't make it correct. So again, unity does not necessarily point to the Church, as it is the timeless Church, not the Church of today only, that gives us our Tradition, the teachings passed down. I believe that both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have their own distinct issues and problems. Rather than pointing out ours, you should be looking to correct your own.
Further I resent the notion that the pope is the head of the church, and sinless, where as the orthodox don't call any men sinless and confess Christ to be the head of the church; that is the main difference.
Again, your Catholic "education" leaves much to be desired, as the Church does not teach that the Pope is impeccable. Your "difference" is a false dichotomy. If you still don't believe me, check out the Catechism. It clearly states that the Pope is NOT sinless.
So who "relaxed" the contraception teaching within the Orthodox? Did the people "vote" on this? Was their a Council that refuted it? What happened some 75 years ago?
Try not to be thrown by "papal supremacy". It gives the Pope the POWER to do "x" and "y", but in practice, he rarely uses it, choosing to NOT lording it over others. Techinically, the Pope could disband schools that teach incorrect practices, bar theologians who teach incorrectly, chastise local churches for improper liturgical practice, and so forth. SOMEONE should have this power - IF the Church IS ONE! But, in reality, how often to you see the Pope practicing these "powers"? Hardly ever. Perhaps most would agree that he SHOULD DO MORE!
So who "relaxed" the contraception teaching within the Orthodox? Did the people "vote" on this? Was their a Council that refuted it? What happened some 75 years ago?
Try not to be thrown by "papal supremacy". It gives the Pope the POWER to do "x" and "y", but in practice, he rarely uses it, choosing to NOT lording it over others. Techinically, the Pope could disband schools that teach incorrect practices, bar theologians who teach incorrectly, chastise local churches for improper liturgical practice, and so forth. SOMEONE should have this power - IF the Church IS ONE! But, in reality, how often do you see the Pope practicing these "powers"? Hardly ever. Perhaps most would agree that he SHOULD DO MORE!
Show me the bull of that. I think you are referring to the two patriarchs, Constantinople and Rome, excommunicating each other, in 1054. But those bulls have been lifted during the 20th century, and were ONLY applied to those two specific men. Your polemics are incorrect, the Orthodox do not consider Benedict XVI a heretic...
A heretic is one who holds a heretcal beleif.
The notion that the pope is the head of the church and not Christ is heretical to the orthodox doctrine.
Do the math.
(The Orthodox actually use heretical and Apostasy quite often...)
Certain Bishops in Certain Jurisdictions, same as within the Catholic church relaxed the teaching. (I think I posted a link to an exhaustive look at this).
The orthodox objection to the papal supremacy is not with regard to how often he uses it, it is with regard to the fact they find it heretical.
That leaves little work for the creator of the universe.
I hadn't realized that there are still Orthodox out there who believe that stuff... Perhaps you should return to reading the Church Fathers and you will find out over and over again that the Bishop of Rome DID have a primacy that was over and above a figurehead like the Queen of England. First among equals! It means more than what you claim. It was HE whom the Bishops wrote to for clarifications on doctrinal disagreements. Did Rome ever write to St. John Chrysostom or Athanasius to get official rulings on the faith? When heretics appeared within the Church, did Rome write to Athanasius for help? WHY ROME? Rome is thousands of miles from Alexandria. Unless, of course, Athanasius and the other Eastern Fathers recognized that the Bishop of Rome was the successor of Peter, the leader of the Apostles - first among equals, but given the keys, given the responsibility to feed Christ's Sheep. Ignoring this is ignoring the history of the Church at least 600-700 years BEFORE the Great Schism.
then one of his successors decides that priest shouldn't marry since they may create rich dynastys of priests
Again, you are misinformed. The Western practice of celibacy of priests was a discipline before the Great Schism. Even if it was not, it is a discipline - so it is not a heresy, as you claim. Again, your polemics do not help matters but only throw fuel on the fire.
Were the shared group of patriarch still in communion at that time they would have intervened in the heresey of requiring men to take a vow of celibacy to enter the priesthood, the whole problem would have been tackled long before it became an infection.
LOL! If only the Catholic Church didn't leave the Orthodox church...You read the secular paper's version on what happened regarding the sexual abuse scandal. This totally ignores that FACT that there are many more MARRIED perverts, school teachers, cub Scout leaders, janitors, people of ALL social classes and occupations. It has NOTHING TO DO WITH BEING MARRIED OR CELIBATE! If a person is gay or has gay tendencies, marriage doesn't "fix" them! Psychologists have largely disproved that idea. Much of the problem, as I mentioned before, is the UNITED STATES bishops and their dissent to Paul VI encyclical on contraception. Dissent and the accpetance within culture of homosexual and deviant behavior has been a big part of the problem - by the way, which is NOT a problem in the vast majority of Catholicism, ONLY in the US. Being that the Church in America is less than 10% of the total Catholic Church, I would hardly say that this problem pervades the entire Church...
Whatever. Read the post AGAIN. I spoke of the secularized culture that inevitably derives from a heretical Christian one.
Orthodoxy *is* growing mostly from within, at least in the ethnic sense. Most of the converts in Russia and other former Soviet satellites are from ethnic Orthodox stock. Their families merely bypassed Orthodox observance for a few generations, so they are genuine converts. That's a good thing. And it is true that there are more than a few conversions of evangelicals and disaffected Catholics in places like the US. But they are still the minority. And even there, the converts seek out the Orthodox, not vice versa. Of course it's on every continent, but in most cases it merely followed its own adherents in their migrations. Very little evangelical proselytization has ever occured with a view to actually Christianizing the pagans wherever they may be found. That was my point.
Your calendar is 13 days off relative to the vernal equinox that determines Easter. Period. The Gregorian calendar sought to realign March 21 with the equinox, since that was the date of the equinox at the time of the Council of Nicaea in 325. The equinox is the equinox. It happens when it happens, no matter what date either one of us wants to call it. But March 21 is supposed to be important to assign to the equinox. The Gregorian has it fall on March 21 (or occasionally in the late hours of March 20). It will take something like 3500 years to drift one full day if uncorrected. The Julian has March 21 fall on Gregorian April 3, thirteen days after the astronomical reality of the vernal equinox has already taken place. If March 21 is such an important date to both of us, and we have already made the adjustment, there's only one way to go here. The division over this is just silly. Even the Anglicans decided that enough was enough, and got in line with the improved Gregorian calendar around 1750.
The "heresy" of one head? The *heresy* of primacy? You have been separated from us for so long that you have built up primacy as an issue involving *heresy*??? I dunno about that! It seems to me that the Orthodox, generally, are willing to assign primacy to the bishop of Rome with certain restrictions, but we differ as to the boundaries of papal authority. The principle of primacy is not denied and watered down to the point where to even refer to it is a "heresy," is it? Perhaps I have misread the statements of the last few Ecumenical Patriarchs and others on this topic. It's not my business to tell you what your own Church teaches, but I think you will find that the basic principle of some element of primacy is considered worth exploring from your point of view, and therefore is not a "heresy," for the mere mention of which anathemas flow.
As for the Ukrainians, I fail to see the connection. The Catholics and Ukrainian Orthodox have always coexisted. The Soviets did their darnedest to undermine both Churches. They were particularly zealous in this regard with the Catholics, as they were "under a foreign head." Many Catholic churches were ripped away. The Church lost huge amounts of its own patrimony. Now that religious freedom has, relatively speaking, made a comeback in Russia, the Catholics want at least some of their former property back. The Orthodox, xenophobic as usual, have moved heaven and earth to get the secular government to not officially recognize anything but Orthodoxy. Where's the freedom? Catholics, a sizable minority, but a minority just the same, want their rights. That some of them seek these rights at the expense of the Orthodox in some of the property disputes is perfectly understandable. I suppose your opposition to that is also perfectly understandable. But neither of us should whine about it. The situation is complex, and a massive scandal against the letter and spirit of John 17:20-21. We both need to move more toward each other, instead of demanding that the "other side" makes all of the movements forward.
I spoke of the secularized culture that inevitably derives from a heretical Christian one. Russian orthodoxy, and the rest of Orthodoxy in the homelands, doesn't deal with religious modernism or the post-Christian secularism derived from Protestantism. All of that stuff is ovr here, and stems from the multiplicity of sects coming out of the so-called Reformation. It just isn't an issue for the Orthodox. It may become one as time goes on, particularly in Orthodox outposts in places like the US, but it's not a big thing yet. Therefor, Orthodoxy is relatively untainted at its lower levels by clashes with post-Christian religious modernism and post-Christian secularism derived from a non-apostolic understanding of Christianity. That's ALL I meant. I was NOT talking about battling secularism in the atheistic Communist mode. You guys were simply battling *that* brand of secularism for survival, and I already said (in two posts!) that I have great admiration for that. If you want to argue with me about the fact that I value the Orthodox for this, fine. But read carefully enough to know what I mean by "secularism" before you go off.
Interesting link regarding the Orthodox perception of the Bishop of Rome:
I hadn't realized that the Orthodox Church declared Ecumenical Councils validly led by the Bishop of Rome are no longer infallible. Because this WAS believed BEFORE the Great Schism... Can you point me to an Orthodox Ecumenical Council that made that statement?
The problem here is that you are using "papal supremacy" without defining it. Secondly, you seem to believe that the Church is frozen in time at the year 1054 - that Doctrine developed throughout the first millenium, then stopped at that date. Know that just as the Catholic Church continued to define doctrine after the Nestorians left, or the Armenians left, or the Coptics left, the Catholic Church will CONTINUE to define doctrine after the Orthodox or the Protestants left the Church. Is this surprising?