Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse

3/21/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

May God grant him many years

Pope Francis is faithful to moral tradition and also appears to be courageous (these days there is no faithfulness without courage). He understands the moral crisis in Christendom and appears to be as committed to the restoration of the Christian foundations of culture as his predecessors were. This portends a good future for Orthodox-Catholic relations and will hopefully make more Orthodox aware of the grave crisis facing us.

Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse

Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse

Highlights

By Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/21/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse, Pope Francis, Orthodox/Catholic relations, two lungs, communion, east, west,


NAPLES, FL. (Catholic Online) - Several weeks ago I spent a weekend with Catholic and Orthodox scholars in a colloquium titled "Liberty, Society, and the Economy in Modern Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Thought." I am a parish priest, not an academic, which means I approach the big questions from what I call a "rubber meets the road" perspective. I start with the problem or issue that I am thrust into and work out from there. It's real, sometimes messy, and almost exclusively existentialist.

That also meant that I approached the colloquium as a student and did not have much to contribute until the how the ideas we discussed applied to everyday people in everyday life. That's the world in which I practice my vocation so that has become my area of expertise. The practical dimension was welcomed especially by the academics who, as most of us know, can distance themselves from the concrete consequences of ideas and sometimes fail to distinguish the power of one idea over another.

It's a professional hazard but then all professions have their hazards including the vocation of the priesthood. That's why we should not only know ourselves (one goal of the Christian life) but also get to know how others see us and clarify how we see others.This kind of knowledge cannot be attained without sentiments of goodwill and professional courtesy. They were present in good measure and after a half-day or so grew into a mutual respect that made both the formal meetings (we analyzed texts from the Catholic and Orthodox traditions) and informal discussions over dinner, walks to Starbucks and so forth very fruitful and rich.

The Catholics have a very developed intellectual tradition about contemporary issues, more so than the Orthodox because they faced no Muslim Conquest or Bolshevik Revolution, historical events that have held us back. That tradition is impressive although not nearly as airtight as some Catholic apologists would have you believe. The Catholic Church also has some significant problems and the frank assessment of their causes by the Catholic participants surprised me. I simply did not expect it. To the Orthodox participants the discussion revealed a resilience and strength within the Orthodox Church that we tend to take for granted.

The resilience has to do with how we worship, how the Divine Liturgy is the essential locus of Orthodox self-identity and maintains a unity of faith despite our jurisdictional divisions. We talked about this at some length especially how in our secularized age (I define secularization as the loss of the awareness of the sacred dimension of creation) many people experience deep interior alienation but are also compelled toward authenticity and communion, especially among the young.

The yearning for authenticity and communion is a search for the transcendent and structured worship speaks directly to it. This is one reason why converts to the liturgical churches (Orthodox and Catholic alike) are often conservative in their approach to worship. In a culture where the divine dimension is lost and worship no longer exists, sexuality becomes a substitute.

Malcolm Muggeridge said years ago that "sex is the sacrament of the materialist." Ideologically this is true but as a priest I also take a more functional approach. The rampant sexuality we see in our culture is often an attempt to self-integrate and find communion - a reach for the unifying clarity that touching the transcendent promises - although greater disintegration is the inevitable result.

The Catholics at the conference understood the relationship between worship and encounter with Christ but are dogged by theological liberals who still insist that the deconstruction of traditional forms is progress. Time is on their side however since theological and moral liberals don't create children (an abortion mentality applies to ideological progeny as well). They have been unable to raise others in the ideas that they have embraced and new recruits are drying up as their spiritual barrenness becomes increasingly evident. They are graying now and in another decade or two they will be gone.

The participants wondered how Orthodoxy, with all its apparent disorganization, can still maintain a uniformity of worship. To us it seems self-evident: worship is the locus of self-identity because that is where the Gospel is preached and where the matrix of faith and morals is brought from the speculative into an encompassing experience that offers knowledge, wisdom, and insight. In sermons I describe it as living our lives not in black and white, but in living color. Anyone who has ears to hear and eyes to see recognizes the power of worship even if only intuitively at first.

I was asked, "What would happen if you changed the Liturgy around?" I answered, "My people would call the Bishop on Monday morning and he would call me on Monday afternoon." They asked, "What would happen if the Bishop changed it around?" I responded, "They would chase him out of town." At that point I was corrected by another Orthodox participant who quoted from one of the Fathers, "They should throw him into the river."

There are several important take-aways from the conference. The first is that Catholic and Orthodox apologetics assume a reality that simply does not exist. All institutions have problems and the both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have their share of them. I've spent my share of time with Catholic apologists and frankly, I just get tired of it. There is always an answer for everything. Catholics I am sure would express the same exasperation from the other direction.

This is not to say that substantial differences don't exist. Clearly they do. Nor is it to say that every ecumenical encounter must have as its goal some kind of unity. I'm not sure if unity between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches is even possible given present circumstances but even if it were, I'll leave it to others to work it out. Nevertheless, a unity of sorts was evident and - the second take-away - strengthened.

The late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, a Lutheran convert to Catholicism, wrote years back that the new ecumenicism is the ecumenicism of the Spirit. What he meant was that Christians from Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Protestantism should be clear about their differences but talk together anyway. We are drawn by the Spirit of God and driven by increasing de-Christianization of the larger culture. "We are more united in the acknowledgement of our differences than in pretending that they don't exist," Fr. Neuhaus correctly said.

Needless to say the participants in the conference were social and moral conservatives - orthodox Catholics and non-progressive Orthodox. We see the same dynamic when talking with Protestants. Authentic conversation with Christians of other communions takes place only when the foundational moral and theological questions are settled.

Again, this does not mean that universal agreement exists. It doesn't. It does mean however, that the path to moral and theological relativism where distinctions are erased and where the authority of the received tradition is reduced to private opinion is closed. Unity at the expense of truth is a collaboration of the confused where the only possible outcome is collapse. We can look to the Episcopalian Church or the National Council of Churches as evidence.

We Orthodox owe something to the Catholics. Catholic leaders have been the clearest and strongest voice in the defense of the dignity of the human person in our increasingly secularized culture. We benefit from their witness. They draw from the moral tradition in ways that that hold our own leaders to account - and correctly so since we hold that part of the moral tradition in common. All Christians, not just Catholics, benefit from their faith and courage.

They also give the American Orthodox Church some breathing room as it finds its way in American society and learns how to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the American ethos. Learning this takes time just as it did in the early centuries of the Church. Orthodox Christianity has much to give secularized America especially to the young who, as I said at the outset, are searching for authenticity and communion.

What are they waiting for? In a word - anthropology. "Anthropology" is a theological term that is derived from the Greek work anthropos or "man." It means that within our Orthodox tradition lies the knowledge of what it means to be a human being particularly how our personhood - the who of who we are - is realized and actualized in communion with the Risen Christ. We Orthodox understand this. Our anthropology is developed. That's one reason why the Church does not fall apart despite our disorganization and historical suffering.

This understanding has to be brought forward and actualized in the American ethos because that is where we live and how we think. This is true of both cradle born and converts (two misnomers because both are adopted in Christ only through baptism) if the ground for human flourishing is to be recovered and tilled. Many are waiting for us. This too was evident at the colloquium.

I've written extensively in the Catholic press about the cultural project that has brought Catholics and Orthodox together on high levels (Pope Benedict and Patriarch Kyrill for example) as well as local efforts like the colloquium. One question the Orthodox asked was whether the retirement of Pope Benedict would dampen the work. It does not look like it will.

Pope Francis is faithful to moral tradition and also appears to be courageous (these days there is no faithfulness without courage). He understands the moral crisis in Christendom and appears to be as committed to the restoration of the Christian foundations of culture as his predecessors were. This portends a good future for Orthodox-Catholic relations and will hopefully make more Orthodox aware of the grave crisis facing us.

May God grant him many years.
-----

Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse is an Orthodox priest serving in Naples, FL. He is President of the American Orthodox Institute and blogs at www.aoiusa.org/blog. This article first appeared in The Observer, the American Orthodox Institute Blog, entitled The Colloquium and Pope Francis  and is used with permission.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2014
Sports:
That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
Lay Missionaries: That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.



Comments


More U.S.

Exclusive: Tribute to Bishop Tony Palmer, A Life Dedicated to Unity Watch

Image of (Pictured: Left to Right - Dirk West, Matteo Callisi, Bishop Tony Palmer, and Deacon Darrell Wentworth) - Faith to Bishop Tony Palmer was a dynamic, lived experience and, as a result, his life built up the whole Body of Christ and tore down the walls some have built to separate us from each other! What a legacy! A true example of living Jesus' prayer in John 17! (Deacon Darrell Wentworth)

By Deacon Darrell Wentworth

Monday, July 21, 2014, was supposed to be like most Mondays - the start of a work week. But Deacon Keith Fournier sent me a text informing me that my friend, Bishop Tony Palmer, had died. Shock went through my body as I processed that news; then disbelief as I ... continue reading


A Tribute to Protestant Bishop Tony Palmer, Friend of Francis and Champion of Christian Unity Watch

Image of The late Bishop Tony Palmer with Pope Francis- He was catapulted into prominence in the broader Christian community when, while meeting with his friend the Pope in January, he was given a recorded message from Francis to deliver to a large group of charismatic, evangelical protestant leaders who gathered in the United States. The video went viral. It moved millions to sincere prayer for the healing of the divisions in the broken Body of Christ and is prompting a renewed commitment to common apostolic action between Christians.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

I never personally met Bishop Tony Palmer. However, I look forward to spending an eternity in the full communion of God's love with him. I appreciated his Christian courage and felt that his efforts were prophetic. He wrote his life - and lived his ministry - ... continue reading


Anarchy in Chicago! Weekend of crime tears city apart Watch

Image of The weekend of July 18 saw the death of five people and the wounding of 47 in Chicago.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There were 47 shooting victims in Chicago this weekend, five of which ended up being fatal, statistics from the Chicago Police Department report. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Chicago officials met on July 21 to discuss the city's recent surge in gun ... continue reading


The Contraceptive New York Nanny, Bill Donohue and the Catholic League Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The idea that the government is now in the business of arm-twisting women not to have more children - immediately after childbirth - is morally obnoxious and socially disturbing. It is so apt that this is happening in a city where its mayor lusts for abortion ... continue reading


Building a culture of life: Colorado clinic takes brave stand Watch

Image of Inspired to bring their mission home to Colorado, they decided to start a natural women's health clinic that would uphold the dignity of women and give them the care they deserve.

By CNA/EWTN News

A Colorado women's health clinic seeking to offer natural care that respects human dignity has drawn praise for helping to build up a culture of life. (CNA/EWTN News) - Authentic women's care "is essential to the pro-life movement," said Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, ... continue reading


When more than 80 percent of California faces extreme drought -- the spigots remain open Watch

Image of At the headquarters of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, fountains are still operating. The one change is that they turn off at mid-morning, and haven't been running full-time since the spring.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Extremely dry conditions in the state of California has 80 percent of the so-called Golden State in extreme drought conditions. Many couldn't tell the difference in many urban areas: Sprinklers go full blast on many lawns, and lots of waters goes wasted by ... continue reading


IT'S ABOUT TIME: Rick Perry deploys national guard to halt southern invasion! Watch

Image of Texas Governor Rick Perry will send 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to help secure the southern border, in an effort to stem the flood of illegals that have crossed over throughout 2014.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In an effort to stem the influx of tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children that have been entering the United States illegally in 2014, Texas Governor Rick Perry will send 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to help secure the southern border. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


Is Mount Rainier about to blow? A new study promises to reveal clues about an upcoming eruption Watch

Image of Mount Rainier is the tallest volcano and the fifth-highest peak in the contiguous United States, towering more than 14,400 feet.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A huge magma reservoir below Mount Rainier in Washington state has been mapped by American and Norwegian researchers, which may provide subtle clues as to when the volcano will next erupt. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - This huge magma reservoir was formed as ... continue reading


BUSTED: FedEx indicted on numerous counts for shipping illegal internet pharmacy drugs Watch

Image of Online pharmacies, operating beneath the radar of drug regulation, often make drugs intended for pain control and psychiatric needs available for illegal recreational purposes.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Online pharmacies, operating beneath the radar of drug regulation, often make drugs intended for pain control and psychiatric needs available for illegal recreational purposes. As a result, FedEx Corp. - a trusted mail delivery system has now was indicted for ... continue reading


We Need Monks for the Church of the Third Millennium, a New Missionary Age Watch

Image of A part of monastic life and spirituality is also labor, immersed in prayer. Monks support themselves through hard work, dedicated to God and caught up in the ongoing redemptive work of Jesus Christ in and through His Church. They follow a

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Monasticism in the first millennium gave us the fountain of theological wisdom which still inspires the Church. Those who went into the desert became the great teachers, fathers, confessors and prophets. Their prayer and witness kept the Church in the Divine ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Song of Songs 3:1-4
1 On my bed at night I sought the man who is my ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
2 Thus I have gazed on you in the sanctuary, seeing ... Read More

Gospel, John 20:1-2, 11-18
1 It was very early on the first day of the week and ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 22nd, 2014 Image

St. Mary Magdelene
July 22: She is called "the Penitent". St. Mary was given the ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter