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 September 2014
Mentally disabled:
That the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life.
Service to the poor: That Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering.



Comments


More U.S.

Watch out Saudi Arabia! U.S. oil production expected to rapidly increase Watch

Image of A Saudi Arabian oil refinery.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The International Energy Agency says that U.S. production of petroleum is set to exceed that of Saudi Arabia's for the first time since 1991. A growing sign of the future of the American energy sector. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The production of oil and ... continue reading


Latinos run from Obama en mass after president punts immigration reform Watch

Image of Latino activists have turned their back on President Obama after he dropped immigration reform until the midterm election.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Barack Obama has bowed to worried Senate Democrats, delaying executive actions on immigration until after the midterm elections, fearing that using executive actions would make immigration reform a partisan issue which would hurt Democrats. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


As thousands of illegals enter U.S., who's stuck with the education bill? Watch

Image of Tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors have flooded into the U.S. during 2014 alone, mostly from South America. While they await immigration trials, schools are responsible for teaching them.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The large numbers of unaccompanied minors who have been illegally crossing into the U.S. from Mexico in ever greater numbers have caused American schools to scramble in an attempt to provide services. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The children and teens who ... continue reading


St. Michael the Archangel, Defend Us in Battle: Pope Francis Takes on the Devil Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Now the new People of God is the Church. That is the reason she considers him her protector and support in all her struggles for the defense and expansion of the kingdom of God on earth. It is true that "the powers of death shall not prevail", as the Lord assured ... continue reading


Need milk? Eggs or flower? The Post Office may have you covered Watch

Image of Amazon partnered with the USPS to provide daily grocery deliveries to people in the San Francisco Bay area, a program the USPS wants to extend to the rest of the country.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The U.S. Postal Service has revealed a new plan to reverse its six-year streak of billion-dollar losses, which is as ingenious as it is simple. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The USPS wants to deliver your groceries to you, and the agency sent this proposal to ... continue reading


Where the buffalo roam... Native Americans plan return of free range Bison on the American Great Plains Watch

Image of Bison calves are playful and eager to roam free.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Buffalo are part of the American west. Across the vast prairies of the Great Plains, herds grazed and migrated, crisscrossing the open grasslands in great, thundering tides. Each year, some of these buffalo were hunted by Native Americans who used everything, from ... continue reading


What did he drink to stay alive? Prison guards suspected of murder after inmate dies of thirst Watch

Image of Investigations continue into the death of a mentally ill man at a North Carolina prison.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A mentally ill North Carolina man died of thirst after being placed in solitary confinement for 35 and having the water to his cell shut down by prison officials. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Michael Kerr, an inmate at the Alexander Correctional Institution ... continue reading


Who Are the Mother and Brothers of Jesus? We Are Watch

Image of The Father of Jesus becomes our Father also, as we enter, through Him, into the inner life of the Trinity. He underscores this truth right before He ascended when He instructed Mary of Magdala to tell the disciples

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

In this exchange, Jesus opens up for those with eyes to see and ears to hear the deeper interior importance and meaning of the motherhood of Mary  and the interior meaning of all family relationships renewed by the Holy Spirit. He gives to those with ears to ... continue reading


Oklahoma City beheader linked to radical Islamic groups Watch

Image of Alton Nolen, the Oklahoma City man who decapitated his coworker last week had attended a local mosque with ties to radical Islamist groups.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Alton Nolen, the Oklahoma City man who decapitated his coworker last week had attended a local mosque with ties to radical Islamist groups. Suharto Webb, an Imam with ties to former Al Qaeda mastermind Anwar al-Awlaki, had been the leader of the Islamic Society of ... continue reading


The Lesson of Herod: Developing Our Spiritual Senses Watch

Image of As we receive the Lord Jesus today - as we read and reflect on His Word and feed on His Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist - let us enter into the communion of prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to open the ears of our hearts. Ask the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of our heart. Then we will see the Lord with eyes of living faith and hear Him as He speaks.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

In the Christian tradition there is a body of beautiful reflection on what are called the spiritual senses. These senses, in a way, parallel our physical senses. Through prayer and intimate communion with the Lord we can cultivate ears to hear the Lord speak to ... 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, Job 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23
1 In the end it was Job who broke the silence and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 88:2-3, 4-5, 6, 7-8
2 may my prayer reach your presence, hear my cry for ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 9:51-56
51 Now it happened that as the time drew near for him ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 30th, 2014 Image

St. Jerome
September 30: St. Jerome, who was born Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius, was ... 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