Michael Liccone has taken issue with some of my comments on an Anglican blog. He has labeled them inappropriately, “ecclesiastical heckling.” Needless to say, I disagree.
For my readers here, this is how the story goes. Once upon a time, Fr.Kimel would email me comments made both on his blog or somewhere else by some Protestant, usually regarding Sola Scriptura, Private Judgment and such matters. Then I would go over there and produce one of my famous “long bombs” of a post and annihilate the poor soul. This worked well for lots of reasons. Pontifications for a while was a kind of meeting house. And so it served Fr. Kimel’s interests to have someone who was not Catholic like myself pick apart Protestant arguments. It also served my own interests. Some of those were to present as best I could a coherent and well argued defense of Orthodoxy. Embedded in my critiques of Protestantism, there always has been an implied critique of Catholicism as well. I also got the opporutnity to refine my thinking and take ideas for a test run. Eventually it was a tool to advertise this blog that Daniel and I share. Once Fr. Kimel got over his stammering from the kinds of objections I raised and found his feet firmly planted back on Roman soil and was a confirmed adherent of Rome, his blog changed its character. It ceased to take on the feel of a meeting house and became the Pope’s house.
That is all well. I truly wish Fr. Kimel the best. As someone who left Anglicanism as well, I can at least partake of some his sufferings. Everyone has to make a choice and he made the choice he thought best and I commend him for his staunch loyalty. I’d prefer someone with theological cojones to someone who can’t melt butter in their mouth. It is also fair to say that Fr. Kimel can do what he likes with his blog. This is why it is quite fair of him to launch assaults on Orthodoxy from it. But now the story has changed. It rarely suits my interests now to post on his blog. I am not interested in being used as an apologetic tool to be trotted out to do the work that Catholics either can’t do or aren’t doing for whatever reason. (I am also not interested in repeated arguments with Protestants who refuse to read or who are obstinant.) It doesn’t suit my interests to be an Uncle Tom for Catholic Apologetics. Nor will I be used as a tool in such a way that I think that
Rome is immune from the kinds of criticisms I launch at Protestantism. Love me or leave me little lamb. To pretend that there is some theoretically neutral ground which Orthodox and Catholic share is a throwback to the dead Anglican branch theory or some worse concoction. This doesn’t imply that there is no common ground between us, for there most certainly is. But commonality and neutrality are two different birds. As far as I am concerned, its all Orthodox ground, and Catholics are conceptual squatters with a very bad ego problem. Needless to say, people with an ego problem see things differently. Part of the problem is that Catholics, especially apologetically minded Catholics have a love/hate relationship with Orthodoxy. They love our icons, the fact that we haven’t managed to screw up our liturgy, have regular female servers, or lay eucharistic ministers (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one.). They love our festivals and the fact that we allow married men to be priests and other such things. But they hate the fact that we aren’t willing to admit a common legitimacy between us. Orthodoxy makes Catholics desire unity and they are surprised, no insulted, that we don’t get all ecumenical in return. That is, we refuse to conform. Tis better to die being true to one’s faith than admit heresy. Better to live under the Muslims than wear the cardinals hat. A statement that Fr.Kimel and others have continued to fail to understand and so strikes them as incomprehensible. I suspect they need to take Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor more seriously.
So Michael Liccone is wrong that I have grown more radical. It is actually a combination of things. I have expanded my reading and experience in Orthodoxy and so I have continued to divest myself of views (practices are more difficult) that are incompatible with Orthodox teaching. God fobid that I be Orthodox eh? And, certainly my comments and critiques of Catholicism have been no worse, dismissive or heckling than the silly things I endured from him, Fr. Kimel. Robert Hart, and she who will not be named, for years. All of which to have been proven wrong one time after the other or at least dubious. And I can’t remember a time when she who will not be named was ever, one single time, censored or rebuked by them. If ever there was a theological heckler, she who will not be named is it. So please Michael, clean up your own backyard first.
But more specifically, I have just grown tired of being used. If Catholicism is correct, then Fr Kimel should be able to find some Catholic apologist to do his work for him. This is not to say that Fr. Kimel can’t do it himself. He is a most able writer, but he can’t do it all. Get Dave Armstrong, Mark Bonocore or one of the many legions of untrained pop apologists. There is certainly no shortage of them. There is also a fair amount of trained individuals, as many of the well thought out posts from Michael Liccone demonstrate. But I am just not going to play that game anymore. Pontifications has raised its colors and so the game has changed. I’d be an idiot not to recognize it.
As for my actual comments, Michael has all kinds of not nice things to strap to it. Fine. I am not nice. Kyrie elesion. The fact is that the Orthodox think that
Rome is not Catholic in the fullest sense of the word. So why is Michael bothered by it? It certainly after about a thousand years isn’t news. I wasn’t arguing that Catholics are trying to be deceptive by using the name, though plenty of Franks and of other people in history have done so. Admittedly my comments do amount to heckling in some ways. It is a comment box after all. I can’t give full expression to my thought. Such is the nature of the beast and Michael and Fr. Kimel have done their fair share of it. It was also invited heckling. Michael may not be aware of this, but much of what I have written above was made clear to Fr. Kimel in private email exchanges some time ago, so he had to know sending an email off to me making me aware of the post was likely to produce the kind of response I gave. I have hardly been made a secret of my criticisms of Catholicism. Don’t invite me to critique Protestant arguments and then have a cow when I write as an Orthodox Christian. It is true that
Rome views the Orthodox as true particular churches, but it is hardly surprising or praiseworthy that she has done so. As if she is going to deny it? Oh please, go for it. If we don’t have “valid” orders, then no one does. Declaring the Sun to be the brightest object in the sky isn’t deserving of praise. The fact that Orthodoxy doesn’t reciprocate doesn’t make us immoral, mean, or generally rude. It makes us Orthodox. (Not to say that some Orthodox can’t be so, but so what?) Catholics are under seemingly more strain to admit Orthodoxy as a legitimate choice than the Orthodox,
Rome. As if it would be open to them to argue that the entire number of churches founded by multiple Apostles in the East bothched it, but not
Rome. Choke! So it is much easier for an Orthodox to argue, given the history of
Rome, to the contrary and so we simply aren’t in the same position. This is why we don’t speak of “branches” of Christianity as Michael speaks, because we aren’t in the same historical and conceptual position. Michael consequently wants to read Orthodoxy and Catholicism as two species of the same genus. He is free to do so, but this I think is misleading and not just because it is question begging. It is so because it assumes a kind of neutral ground between us which just isn’t there. Anglicanism may be a historical creation, but only to a degree. The fact is that the English church long predated Roman control. Coptic monks in the 2nd century returned to Egypt from
England because churches and monasteries had already been long established there. And the licensing by the Pope for the Norman conquest was based on less than theologically justifiable principles. Granted, plenty of twigs have been grafted on to the Anglican tree, some to the point of causing it to wither and die, but to think that it was always Roman and nothing other than Roman is a rather big stretch. I believe psychologists call it denial. The history of the exchanges between Rome and England show that
Rome has a few grafted twigs acquired over time herself. Well into the 12th century even in the West, English as well as other European peoples defied celibacy, bishops included, among other things. The idea that the Anglicans just split with no precedent or basis other than Henry’s need for an heir coupled with his moral viciousness is the stuff of fiction. All I have done is employed the Catholic argument and turned it around. Anglicanism is defunct because it is the creation of men, and so too is Catholicism. It is the creation of political and philosophical need of emperors (Funny how Charlamagne’s name never comes up in discussions of Caesar-papism.) for domination, shaping both externally and internally, the papacy to suit their interests. How is that for Caesar-papism? Michael and others finally now admit what I have said for a while, and even what the dreaded Orthodox Ogre, Romanides, has claimed, that the filioque was inserted for political gain and
Rome caved to the Franks. This is certainly the reading that more recent historical accounts have supported. See Chadwick’s more recent book on the East/West divide. The history of exegesis and politics is being revised and
Rome is coming out on the short end of the stick. The fact is that the Franks for a long time tried to gain control of the western patriarchs (that’s the Pope) to use against the
Eastern Empire. They knew they were both theological and political squatters and the only way to oust the East was by concocting, editing and “developing” ideas that convicted the East of heresy. And so they did. And so Catholics are now stuck defending them because a Frank got a hold of the papacy. I never did like the French.
My reading of the Vicentian Canon is no more tendentious than Tertullian and Ireneaus’ argument that the Apostolic deposit was made in all the churches the apostles founded so that innovation can be outed by comparing what they all teach. Those sees that teach differently than the whole have strayed from the Apostles teaching. It would be absurd to understand the “all” as each and every individual, for then it would have no force in detecting innovation. And it would have the added effect of elevating every layman to the rank of bishop. Nor was my claim that each see was preaching what was deposited in it, which is why you get fights between them. Cyril makes this quite plain in his exchanges with Nestorius for example. So Michael misconstrues the idea. There is a difference between a See and its occupant. Michael also ignores in his discussion of sees failing to teach the truth around that time
Rome also failed. That is why the bishops ex communicated Vigilius. This is why bishops under his own western jurisdiction struck him name from the diptychs and excommunicated him. Besides, on Michael’s reading, we make
St. Vincent out to be an idiot for his canon has virtually no use at all.
I simply will not grant Michael his run to a priori, apersonal and ahistorical principles to decide the issue. First because the history cuts across those principles in clear cases as in Vigilius. A council is superior to the Pope. Period. NONE of the Apostles needed the help of any other in their ministry, as an Ecumenical council and the Popes themselves have ratified. Period. I agree that there is no theory neutral way of applying the canon, but what of that? There is no theory neutral way of applying logic either. I don’t desire theoretical neutrality nor do I need it. All I need is a good internal critique. It is odd though that the VC is ruled out on the lack of theoretical neutrality, but not somehow seeing Catholicism and Orthodoxy as of the same kind. Now how strange that theoretical neutrality should rule out just that evidence that counts against Catholicism but not Orthodoxy. As the Church Lady used to say, “How CONVENIENT.” This is special pleading.
Moreover, I can’t think of any argument that a Catholic can give that on Michael’s reading is theory neutral. I wish he would inform all of his Catholic friends in the blogsphere to stop pelting Orthodox with spoof texts, because, after all, none of it is theory neutral. I should think he would also wish to stop giving any arguments against Orthodoxy because none of them is theory neutral.By the same token, Michael’s analysis of Orthodox and Catholicism of occupying common ground, of being the same kind, should also be ruled idle, useless and of no argumentative value. In any case, Michael’s critique I think misses the point. Certainly the Fathers and Councils did not avail themselves of a theory of development. To appeal to development in Newman’s terms is not Catholic or at best not Patristic. How according to say Ireneaus are we to identify innovation? If one teaches something the others don’t. This was the basis of his argument, at least in part for the four gospels. Strangely it is good enough for the four gospels but not the Papacy. This was in part the basis of Cyril’s argument against Nestorious-you’re teaching against the other churches received deposit. This was why Maximus claimed he would not commune with Rome if
Rome went monothelite. They were just being…Orthodox.