A Post for the Recently Departed from Orthodoxy to Papism

st-mark-of-ephesus-9

…Saint Mark of Ephesus addressing the Pope

A couple of days ago I was sent an article written on a blog of Papist college students by a young man named Gideon Lazar who departed from Orthodoxy for Roman Catholicism. This was a “tipping point” for me, after a month or two of seeing stuff by another fellow named Timothy Flanders being promoted from our Facebook forum to Youtube for his departure from Orthodoxy to Papism (He has not answered my requests to debate). Because I’ve been asked to write a response, I will respond to Gideon since he is a recent convert. What I will not do is a point-by-point refutation, since many of the points, as Orthodox readers of the articles have correctly adduced, are just false and foolish. It’s my hope that the young man, a fairly recent convert, reconsider his piece, and also reconsider his departure from the faith.

Before I begin, however, let me say that Gideon’s departure is a result of ecumenism. Due to a lack of exactness of teaching in terms of where the Church was (the ultimate doctrinal goal of ecumenism) Gideon failed to see leaving Orthodoxy as what it was– apostasy– and found himself in the “loving embrace” of Rome. This is where ecumenism will lead you– once you deny the oneness of the True Faith, you’re already halfway out the door.

I’ve read the essay. Gideon begins by noting he’s posting it at the same time he’s to be received, akin to a suicide letter being discovered next to the body– forgive the comparison, but fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.) Again, I have no intention of being exhaustive because a lot of arguments in these ecumenical journeys that end up in Rome are emotional. I’m appealing to the Fathers and common sense.

Let’s begin.

The Fatima Mess

“The view that Fatima is simply a hoax cannot be the case. It has a miracle connected with it that was witnessed by thousands of people, many of whom were atheists who came to the event specifically to refute what the children were saying. Skeptics have argued that it was simply a mass hallucination, but Christians should be skeptical of this argument. Skeptics of the resurrection of Jesus often respond to the fact that there were 500 witnesses by pointing to Fatima. If Fatima was a mass hallucination, so could the resurrection of Jesus have been.”

In the first place, I’d be glad to admit to Fatima not being a “hoax” in the sense that SOMETHING occurred; we just disagree on what. I have no doubt it was a demonic apparition meant to deceive thousands of people (we find in the history of the saints of the Orthodox Church visual delusions caused by demons which stir up the people to inflict pain among the saints). Fatima can easily fall under this category.

What doesn’t fall under this category is a dead man coming back after three days being dead, hanging out with His disciples for a month and a half, and then ascending into heaven. If that’s not obvious, it should be. The resurrection of Christ was such a shocking and confusing event precisely because no one expected it to occur. It countered our very understanding of life and death.

By contrast, a demon giving a “sign” (after being untested) while claiming to be the Theotokos of the sun dancing– an optical illusion cannot be reproduced? Humans can create optical illusions, but demons can’t?

What follows is a very poor argument: “The other objection to Fatima is that it is demonic. However, the vision doesn’t sound like Satan at all. Would Satan command people to pray 53 Hail Marys and 6 Our Fathers, both fully Orthodox prayers, every single day?”

Does anyone doubt that Protestants say the Our Father? Yet this doesn’t make them the Church. The fact that the demons help confirm people in their error means they are just doing their job. Is Fatima bringing people to the Church– or to a false church? The answer is obvious.

Finally he finishes: “I did find one way to stay Orthodox after discovering this. Fatima was true and Orthodoxy is true. After all, the message of Fatima seems entirely Orthodox…At this point this is such a stretch that it’s just easier to draw the obvious conclusion, if Fatima is true then Catholicism is true.”

I would argue that at this point to the young man in question: you were already halfway out the door. Now you’re completely out. I will however, make a note on what the priest you cited wrote. If Father Andrew Phillips of ROCOR is an apparent secret believer in “the Third secret of Fatima,” one of the stupidest conjectures of modern Roman Catholicism, then in his 60’s I will flatly say he’s lost his mind. It’s that simple. And my dear readers can tell him I said that. Take your meds, Father. You’re making sons of hell here.

The Terrible “Missionary Work” and Uniatism Argument

Unlike Protestants and Roman Catholics, Orthodox have 2,000 years of history to work with and therefore can view the question of “preaching the Gospel to all nations” in terms of ebbs and flows. Gideon’s argument is essentially a “ok for me, but not for thee” argument common among heretics, whether he realizes it or not. He writes: “he other major event that triggered my shift towards Catholicism was reading about the history of Catholic missionary work. In Orthodoxy, there are a few saints that are famous for missions: Sts. Cyril and Methodius (who were before the schism), St. Nicholas of Japan, and St. Herman of Alaska. In fact, if you discuss missionary work with anyone who is Orthodox, they will probably bring up St. Herman of Alaska. There is a reason he is brought up again, and again, and again. He is essentially the only successful Orthodox missionary since the schism.”

Let us first note a problem with this argument: geography. All missionary work that has been done among Roman Catholics since the schism has largely been through territorial conquest by Papist countries (and we’re really talking about South America here, as success in Africa and Asia is not only limited, but developing between both Orthodox and Papists.) Before the rampages of Islam, Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy were roughly equal in size. A few centuries later, Roman Catholicism could claim its “stamp” on countries that were under its monarchs’ dominions and in fact have concordats to preserve the status quo (for example, in the Philippines, divorce follows largely Roman Catholic laws for a secular legal standard. In another example, a former priest of ours who wanted to do a Western Rite service in Peru was actually given a notice from the Papist Bishop’s office in Lima that he was free to celebrate missionary services– in Greek.) So this fantasy of a rich missionary dimension to Roman Catholicism is a bit of a sham. Further, all those gains have been reversing since the Second Vatican Council. It’s a dirty little secret which, if you haven’t discovered yet, you will.

Now if you want to talk about Orthodoxy and Roman Catholic missionary work, consider the life of St Peter the Aleut, a young Orthodox Christian who got tortured to death for not joining the Papists. Let’s be real here– for myself as someone who is part Peruvian, we all know the story of how the last Inca Emperor of any force was put to death for “blasphemy” because he didn’t know what a book was and bit into a Bible. Grand “missionary work” there.

Ironically, Gideon doesn’t realize the above also colors his next argument: “It’s also notable that there are large numbers of Eastern Catholics, but very few Western Rite Orthodox.”

That is because Western Rite Orthodox exist by choice, not by force. The Unia were political schemes to make peace with Papist rulers. There was no mass movement to join Rome among the Orthodox of those areas: it was forced. Their “hieromartyr” Josaphat Kuntsevich was famous for physically interrupting Orthodox services and injuring people. It’s why a mob ended up killing him; the political union had countless opponents, and the new convert’s zeal as an enemy of the Church horrified many. The closest you get to a willing union (among the hierarchs, never among the people) is the Melkite schism of 1724, but even that took decades of Franciscan “charity” to train the youth of the upper classes and eventually cause most of them to sign a false union. And even then, the people resisted and an Orthodox hierarchy returned.

By contrast, Western Rite Orthodoxy, despite distrust and opposition, has always been a voluntary movement. Those of us Orthodox who pray using the Western Rite are Orthodox first, ritual second (there may be some exceptions but they’ll return to Rome or Orthodoxy on their own.) We are not Western-Rite Uniates: we are precisely the opposite.

Finally, Gideon splats on St Alexis of Wilkes-Barre. He can justify his mistreatment at the hands of John Ireland all he wants, and can minimize the systemic mistreatment of Uniates in this country (until Vatican II they were often “rechrismated” at confirmation ceremonies and were commonly treated as “sorta”-Catholics), but the reality is that literally thousands of people joined St Alexis and returned to Orthodoxy under the omophor of St Tikhon. Papists like to treat St Alexis as some random disgruntled priest, but disgruntled randoms don’t convert thousands. The follow up with the PNCC sect is irrelevant, to be honest, but should give Gideon pause: even committed Papists were willing to break off to be a sect of Papists. And this was in the pre-Vatican II “glory days!”

“Saint” Francis

Gideon shocks absolutely no one by pointing out that Orthodox of time immemorial accuse “Saint” Francis of prelest. The reason for this is because Francis of Assisi was in prelest. Nothing further there needs to be said.

Sacramental Theology

Apparently Gideon has a problem with the variety of uses that have been maintained to receive people into Orthodoxy from heresy for 2,000 years. The oversimplification of the 1938 creation of ACROD glosses over the fact that the parishes had rejected the Unia for a year and were already confessing Orthodoxy and their leader was made a Bishop. While I’m not defending ACROD here, to say that they were all received in “by a telegram” is incredibly misleading and unfair to the history of their people.

Why do people read Soloviev anyway?

Because Gideon cites Soloviev more than once, I’ll add a quick note. I’m always dumbfounded by the number of people who read Soloviev like he was a great Russian thinker. He was basically a huge ecumenist who was into a lot of weird movements and died a pauper (and a Papist). But because Uniates want to claim some sort of “link” to Russia they trot out Soloviev. Honestly– I haven’t read the man’s stuff in 20 years. The only reason I even really knew his name as more than a footnote is because when I went to Uniate Churches, they talked about Soloviev like he was the Tsar-Martyr and St Seraphim wrapped into one.

The guy wrote poetry. Seriously. His big contribution to Russian society is poetry.

Finally, the Solution to all of the Problems: The Papacy!

So after we get all the emotionalism and bad argumentation out of the way, we’re left with a solution no one needs to a problem no one has: The Papacy. Obviously despite the fact that for the past 1,000 years, a disunited, confused Orthodoxy has somehow managed to preserve and spread the faith without change (maybe because Christ somehow heads the Church Himself) our young writer has realized the solution we needed all along was the Pope. Let’s reread Matthew 16:18, everyone! The Pope is the rock! (I’m literally not going to answer one of a dozen arguments for the Papacy. I did it for years. So did lots of other people for decades and centuries before any Orthodox apologists were even on the internets.)

For a piece written by an obviously intelligent young man, this essay finally fails and dies here– because it has to. Every Roman Catholic argument for the Papacy is essentially a sales pitch for “unity”. As someone who worked for many years in sales, the pitch is kind of obvious, though to someone who is new to the faith, they may not realize they were sold a line.

To Gideon: none of the argumentative points you have made are actually valid, and unsurprisingly the essay ends with a sort of “come on folks, let’s go” which is part of the charm of youth. Young man, you go to a Papist university. You’ve seen large, impressive Uniate churches. “Exploring new things.” I was a college student too. I get it. But if I seem dismissive of the arguments, it’s because they’re not real. And the biggest proof of it is that despite the Councils of Lyons and Florence, despite the Unia, despite forced conversions in Orthodox territories… Orthodoxy is still here. It’s why Pope Eugene, almost convinced of the success of the Council of Florence and hearing that St Mark of Ephesus refused to sign, astutely concluded: “we have achieved nothing.”

The greatest argument for Orthodoxy is ironically Her disunity: it is why we pray to “heal the schisms of the Churches” in the prayer book. Hopefully soon you realize that what you’re doing is the same thing Papal apologists have done for centuries and failed, that the myth of disunity being a “problem” in Orthodoxy is as invented a problem… as the Papacy is a solution.

I don’t expect this essay to bring you back to Orthodoxy. That’s what the Holy Spirit’s for. But I do hope you return to your senses. Take care.