In the now incredibly long thread at Papal Ponty's concerning why he did not choose to become Eastern Orthodox, an Orthodox reader asked how the Catholic Church could seriously claim to appreciate the Eastern Church if it doesn't even venerate Eastern saints. Papal Ponty reasonably enough suggested, "[P]erhaps you should ask some Byzantine and Melkite Catholics about the saints they venerate.”
The Orthodox reader was nonplussed:
So, they venerate St. John of Kronstadt and St. Seraphim of Sarov? Really? Consider me unconvinced, Father. Does the Latin Church venerate the Saints of the Byzantine Rite? If not, isn’t this a bit strange considering they are supposedly 'one church'?
To which I relpied:
Be fair. If the vast cultural and canonical diversity of Orthodoxy does not vitiate its oneness as the Church, why should the same diversity argue against Catholicism’s unity? Unity is not uniformity. Analogy: “So do Russians speak French and eat French food all the time? So much for there being 'one humanity'. Consider me unconvinced.” Huh?
Let me add that, having spoken at some length with a Macedonian Orthodox only a few weeks ago about this very issue, I have no illusions about the severe national-cultural estrangement between some of the Orthodox autocephalies and semi-autocephalies. He told me about how Greece once granted Macedonia autocephaly, with the other patriarchs signing on too, but then revoking that privilege some time later. He also spoke about how this fallout led to severe persecution by Greece against “Macedonian Orthodox” and how even today is your I.D. shows you come from certain areas in Macedonia, you are forbidden access to Greece. His words, not mine.
I mention this since I too wait with baited breath to see how Orthodoxy will deal with the ever-increasing atomization and tribalism of the postmodern world (I call it "micro-phyletism"). Obviously, the Orthodox Church rejects phyletism and racism (dogmatically, as of 1896, if I’m not mistaken). Nationalism among big tottering world powers is one thing, but relentless sectarianism based on minute political and ideological aims is QUITE something else. According to at least one former Orthodox who comments here fairly regularly and always intelligently, the problem of phyletism the USA, not to mention any of it in other countries, is the sole reason he is no longer Orthodox. In effect, he says, the Orthodox Church in America is guilty of base heresy, plain and simple. How this lethal cancer is not also present in the communities that started these phyletic bodies in the USA and how it will not spread in our ever-fragmenting geo-political-transgendered-pluralistic- polyvocal-polysexual-polyethical- etc. multiverse – how Orthodoxy, in short, has survuved or will survive creeping phyletism and micro-phyletism is beyond me. But -- I am of the good hope God will preserve his people – which for me as a Catholic, of course, means the ultimate union of the East and West on the Rock of Peter in the Rock of Christ.
Further, to address the particular issue of Eastern piety in the West, one reason most Latin Catholics do not, practically speaking, venerate Byzantine Catholic saints is because, well, um, they're not Byzantine Catholics. The difference is that in the Catholic Church, all rites in union (i.e., in union with Rome) are ALLOWED to and ENCOURAGED to drink from each other’s wells (see JPII’s superb _Lumen Orientalum_). Catholics don’t venerate John of Kronstadt and Seraphim of Sarov because, as Catholics, they simply lack the ecclesial permission and guidance to do so. Like it or not, while Catholics are free to explore all kinds of things, being Catholic does entail us to obey the limits set by our pastors in many areas. As St. Paul said the Corinthians, "All things are acceptable, but — perhaps — not all things are beneficial." A Catholic, like any Chrsitian, has a duty to protect his faith. Sad to say, as things stand, the Catholic Church has told the faithful only very few post-Schism Orthodox heroes are safe for the preservation of their faith. Being enriched by those saints insights is great, but the question "At what cost?" must also factor in.
A second reason most Roman Catholics don't "get into" Eastern piety is because, let’s be honest, we have really dropped the ball out of smugness, apathy and xenophobia for quite some time. Vatican II made a serious call to Western Catholics to get off their asses and get into the East. But this renewal, fueled by humility, repentance and PRAYER, takes time. As for my part, if you'll notice, not only is my blog named in honor of St. Innocent (Veniaminov), not only are Sts. Cyril and Methodius two of my (and my blog's) chief patron saints, but I also take it as serious personal duty to read Orthodox material AND attend Orthodox liturgy (in Taiwan!) at least once every six weeks. (For example, have a look see here.) Many of us are trying not only in word but also in deed to bridge the gap. [E.g., look here]
In the meantime, it would be nice if you could back off a bit with about ungrateful, anti-Eastern Catholics and our alleged disunity. I can assure you the Catholic Church is — and is officially determined to be — big enough for the riches of the East to THRIVE in her one flock. Should you ever become a Catholic, your obvious love for the light of the East would not only find a home in Rome, but would also in itself work to deepen the Western Church’s growth in Easternness. Pardon my vividness, but standing on your side of the chasm with your arms crossed and a pouting lip doesn't do a whole lot of good.
Ut unum sint! Mater ecclesiae, ora pro nobis!