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So, Italy

Hello from Siena, where I’ve come today with my son Lucas for the Palio, which will be run on Sunday. We have been for the past day or so among the Tipi Loschi [1], the wonderful Catholic tribe in San Benedetto del Tronto, a small city on the Adriatic. If you read The Benedict Option [2], you know all about them. Wait, scratch that: you don’t know all about them, because there is so much to know. What you do know is that they are the most ideal fulfillment of the Benedict Option that I have found.

In 2014, Father Cassian, then the prior of the Norcia monastery, heard me talk over lunch in Norcia about the Benedict Option, and told me that it sounds a lot like what the Tipi Loschi are doing in a coastal city on the other side of the mountain from the monastery. Father Cassian suggested I go visit them sometime, and said that Christians who don’t do some version of what they are doing are not going to make it through the trials to come.

In early 2016, I finally visited them. It was far too short, that visit, but I learned a great deal. To me, it was hard to believe such a community exists in our world. Seriously. They are robustly orthodox in their Catholicism, but also joyful, and do all kinds of great things as a community. They have a sort of clubhouse, called Santa Lucia, atop a hill overlooking the sea. They bought the run-down property cheap, and through their own hard labor, cleared the weeds and briars away, rebuilt the little house, and made it into a community center. Marco Sermarini, the Doge of the Benedict Option, is their unofficial leader, as well as the head of the Italian G.K. Chesterton Society [3], which explains a lot. The man is on fire for Chesterton; he saw to it that the classical Christian school the community founded was called the Scuola Libera G.K. Chesterton. Look at this; that’s Marco in the opening scene:

He’s also on fire for Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, [4] the group’s patron, and above all for Jesus Christ. He’s bold, that one, and full of life.

Here’s an excerpt from The Benedict Option [5] to show you what kind of man Marco is:

Sometimes Marco lies in bed at night, worrying that his efforts, and the efforts of his little Christian community, won’t amount to much in the face of so much opposition. He is anxious that the current will be too strong to resist and will tear them apart.

“I know from the olive trees that some years we will have a big harvest, and other years we will take few,” he said. “The monks, when they brought agriculture to this place a thousand years ago, they taught our ancestors that there are times when we have to save seed. That’s why I think we have to walk on this road of Saint Benedict, in this Benedict Option. This is a season for saving the seed. If we don’t save the seed now, we won’t have a harvest in the years to come.”

It was getting late in the afternoon. I was afraid I would miss my bus to the Rome airport. Shouldn’t we be going? I asked.
Grande Rod, don’t worry, my friend!” he said. “You worry too much. You will make it!” And off we sped, down the winding road toward the sea.
As the sun went down in the western sky, we spoke once more about the challenge facing orthodox Christians in the West and how daunting it seems. Marco left me with these unforgettable lines.

“In Italy, we have a saying: ‘When there is no horse, a donkey can do good work.’ I consider myself a little donkey,” he said. “There are so many purebred horses that run nowhere, but this old donkey is getting the job done. You and me, let’s go on doing this job like little donkeys. Don’t forget, it was a donkey that brought Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.”

Marco is probably the greatest man I know, and I’m not kidding. When he heard I was planning to come to Siena with my son, he said I had to come early and visit the Tipi Loschi. It so happens that they are now in the middle of celebrating their annual feast of Pier Giorgio Frassati. Marco invited me to talk about l’Opzione Benedetto to the crowd of the Tipi Loschi and their friends from all over Italy. How could I possibly say no? Plus, I was very eager for Lucas, who is 13, to meet the Tipi Loschi. “These are the kind of people who will be your friends for the rest of your life,” I told him.

The journey there was not easy. We flew overnight from New Orleans to Heathrow, then, after a three-hour layover, connected to Bologna. We took a lickety-split cab from the airport to the train station, and jumped on our train to San Benedetto del Tronto with only eight minutes to spare. The train ride was another three hours — in a car without air conditioning. In the summer. Poor Lucas was so excited about the trip that he slept not a wink on the overseas flight. He pretty much collapsed on the train to SBT.

We finally arrived around 10:30 pm, and there was Marco waiting for us on the platform. “Bravo, Lucas!” he said about a million times. He drove us to Santa Lucia, where the Tipi Loschi were finishing up the day’s events with a lecture under the moon. The groggy travelers had leftover pizza, and (for me) Birra Nursia [6]:

We finally made it to our room at Le Limonaie a Mare [7], just down the hill from Santa Lucia. Here is the view from our balcony. They say on a clear day, you can see the Croatian coast on the horizon:

The next morning, Lucas went to the beach with some of the Tipi Loschi kids, and Marco took me to Ripatransone [8], a nearby hill town. There I walked down the narrowest street in Italy:

Marco, who took the photo, says this picture explains the Benedict Option. I think he means walking the narrow path through the wall to the light.

After, we had lunch with a bunch of friends of the Tipi Loschi, including Richard Vigilante from the US. Friends, there was pasta. And cheese. And pasta and cheese. And conversation! A shot from before the pasta arrived:

Then it was time for a siesta. Late in the afternoon, I sat in the gazebo at the Limonaie and gave an interview to Rodolfo Casadei [9], an Italian journalist. He was not the first or the last to tell me that The Benedict Option needs to be translated into Italian. I hope it will be! First I need to find a publisher.

Rodolfo and I hiked a short distance up the hill to Santa Lucia, where the evening’s events were well under way. From the road, I spied Lucas playing soccer with a bunch of Italian ragazzi, and saw Father Martin of Norcia inspecting livestock. When we entered the crowd, it didn’t take long for someone to bring me a cold Birra Nursia. Marco introduced me to his friend Angelo Bottone, an Italian-born philosopher who works for The Iona Institute [10] in Dublin. We had a great talk. I also spoke to a group of young Americans who were living among the Tipi Loschi — some temporarily, others for longer — including one whom I had met earlier this year at Benedictine College, and strongly encouraged to visit them. “They are everything you said they were,” she told me, with a big smile.

(Actually, seeing the photo, I recall now that we had this conversation on the night I arrived. Sorry! I’m jet-lagged and loopy.)

Photo: Giovanni Zennaro

Soon it was dinner time. Above, the scene from Santa Lucia; that’s the Adriatic in the background. I sat between Father Benedict, the prior of Nursia, and Father Martin. I wish I had photos to show you, but I was so busy talking and eating that I forgot to take pictures. It was wonderful to see them again, especially there at Santa Lucia. And then, who shold walk up but Fabrizio Diomedi, the iconographer I met in 2016 at the Norcia monastery. Fabrizio spent years painting Biblical scenes on the walls of the refectory there. His work was likely destroyed by the October earthquake last year. Because I love his work so much, and because I wanted to have something of the monastery whose witness means so much to me, last year I commissioned a diptych of St. Benedict and St. Genevieve of Paris [11]. Benedict is my patron, of course, but I developed a devotion to St. Genevieve when I learned about her five years ago in Paris. She was an abbess of the 5th century who was very brave in facing down Attila the Hun. Her icon features her holding a candle; the story goes that she and her nuns were on their way to the Saturday prayer vigil when a storm blew out their candle, plunging them into darkness. She made the sign of the Cross over the candle, which sprang back to life, lighting the way safely for the nuns to the church.

As I was writing The Benedict Option, I asked these two saints (who, being pre-schism saints, are also venerated by Orthodox Christians) to pray for me to God that I do good work on it. This is why I asked Fabrizio to write a diptych of them for me.

Here is Fabrizio and his work last night at Santa Lucia:

Here is a close-up:

(Genovefa is Genevieve’s given name. She was a Gaul.)

It is astonishingly, breathtakingly beautiful. If you’re familiar with Orthodox iconography, this will look familiar to you, but you will also notice that it has a softer Western style. If you read Italian (or want to use Google Translate), read this statement by Fabrizio about why he took up iconography. [12] Basically, he says that contemporary art seemed empty, self-referential, and narcissistic to him. He wanted to bring about Beauty that represented eternal Truth, and that led us beyond ourselves to unity with the Word Made Flesh, Jesus Christ.

Here is a link to images of some of the work he did in the refectory at Norcia [13] — all probably gone now, under rubble.

I showed the diptych to an American last night at Santa Lucia, and she asked, “Can you actually buy something like this?” Indeed you can. His work in Norcia having come to an abrupt end, Fabrizio pays the bills by taking commissions. I cannot urge you strongly enough to reach out to him and commission an icon. I will be using this dual icon of St. Benedict and St. Genevieve in my personal and family devotions for the rest of my life, and it will become a family heirloom. Every time I look at it, I will think of Norcia. You can write to him at [email protected], or connect with him through his Facebook page. [14]

Finally came the time for me to speak to the crowd from the stage. My interpreter was an American named Kevin Hertelendy who works for the Tipi Loschi. I wish I could remember his last name. He did a great job. Father Benedict also spoke (in Italian), as did Marco Sermarini. I told the audience that I really do believe that the future of the Christian churches in the West — not only Catholic ones! — is being made on either side of the Sibylline Mountains, in Norcia and San Benedetto del Tronto.

Photo by Giovanni Zennaro

At last the evening came to an end, and we went back to the Limonnaie. But I wasn’t sleepy yet, and spent another hour outside in the cool sea breeze talking to Angelo Bottone. Even this, alas, had to come to an end, around 1 am, and I went upstairs to sleep. As I drifted off, I thought about all the kind Italians who told me they had been deeply affected by The Benedict Option. It moved me greatly.

Lucas and I woke up at 6:45, packed our bags, and met Marco downstairs. His pal Giorgio was with him. They were going to deliver us to Siena via Norcia — a really long drive for them. We had a quick breakfast of cappuccino and cornetti, then hit the road for Norcia. As you may recall, the town and the region was horribly damaged by earthquakes last year. Driving through the area and seeing all the destroyed houses was heartbreaking. Italian hill towns that had been there for centuries, now gone. We finally arrived at the Monastery of St. Benedict, which has been relocated to the monks’ property on the mountainside near Norcia. They are now living in a couple of wooden houses built in part by the Tipi Loschi and other volunteers, but they have big plans. Father Benedict showed us this morning the brand-new drawings for the monastery and church they plan to build. It’s very impressive.

We stayed for morning mass — the Latin mass, chanted — and saw my old friend Thomas Hibbs from Baylor, his son Dan, and Tom’s colleague Alden Smith, who teaches classics at Baylor. Here I am showing (L to R) Alden, Tom, and Dan the icon that Fabrizio wrote:

Photo by Giovanni Zennaro

Lucas and I could not receive communion, of course, but we could still pray during the mass, and experience God in the chanting. The chapel the monks are now worshiping in is vastly smaller and plainer than their Norcia basilica, which collapsed in the earthquake. But watching them chant the liturgy, I thought of what Jesus said to St. Paul: “my strength is made perfect in weakness.” The monks of Norcia have been reduced to real poverty and hardship, but the light of Christ is shining through them from the mountainside.

Photo by Giovanni Zennaro

The monks were so nice to Lucas, who watched closely to see how they celebrated mass differently than we celebrate the Divine Liturgy (Lucas serves at the altar).

Father Benedict and Marco Sermarini (Photo by Giovanni Zennaro)

I wish we could have stayed longer, but we had a long way to go yet, and Marco wanted to show us the face of Norcia, post-earthquake. We drove down the mountainside and into the town.

I don’t mind telling you that I fought back tears. Here is a side view of the basilica from this morning:

Understand, this is a view of the inside of the basilica. Struggling with my emotions, I said to my son, “Lucas, not a year and a half ago I was standing inside there, praying. That’s where I met Mr. Marco.” I struggled to comprehend what I was seeing, and to make it cohere with my memories of the place.

Here is the view from the piazza, photographed by me in February 2016:

Here is a similar view from this morning:

The basilica façade is just about the only part of the basilica left standing. Notice the town’s bell tower, which is very unstable. The two other churches in town are destroyed. This was once the church of St. Philip Neri:

Photo by Giovanni Zennaro

It was traumatic to be there. The town should be buzzing with tourists now, but it’s largely vacant. The Caffè Tancredi, where I took my morning coffee there — it’s closed. The restaurants I loved are also closed. Most of the people have not yet returned. It’s a hell of a thing. Norcia is known for its cured meats, so we stopped into one norcineria for prosciutto sandwiches. Behold, a Milanese named Stefano Schileo, about to experience bliss:

Photo by Giovanni Zennaro

The proprietor gave me three small cinghiale (wild boar) sausages as a gift, because Marco told him I loved wild boar. I would have bought pounds of the stuff to take home, but you can’t bring meat back into the US. Still, look at this deliciousness:

Photo by Giovanni Zennaro

Grande! Walking around the town, I told Marco that things like this really test one’s faith. How could God let such a thing happen to these people?

Marco said that the shop owner told him that people are slowly trickling back into town. I hope so.

We went back to the car to leave, and to say goodbye to Giovanni Zennaro [15] (center) and Stefano (Schileo, right), two friends from Milan who had come down to the Pier Giorgio Frassati festival, and who accompanied us to Norcia:

I love Italians. Did I mention that?

After a long drive through Umbria and Tuscany, we arrived in Siena. Saying farewell to Marco and Giorgio was hard. Lucas told me, up in the room, “Dad, I almost cried telling them goodbye.” I know the feeling.

After we got settled, we trekked up the hill (it’s always up a hill in Siena) to the Campo, where we saw the ceremony assigning the horses to each contrada (for an explanation of the Siena contrada system, see here [16]). Afterward, we walked over to the Onda (the Wave) contrada, which was the one my friend Sordello and I cheered for [17]when we came here in 2015. My fazzoletto — a silk kerchief worn around the neck, a symbol of each contrada — lies packed away somewhere in the moving boxes at home, so I bought a new one, and one for Lucas. He researched all the contrade before coming here, and is partial to Lupa (the She-Wolf), but Lupa is not running this year. We also paid for our tickets for the big contrada dinner to be held on the night before Sunday’s race.

Exhausted from a long day, we walked back to our hotel, stopping to buy Chianti and Fanta, and then take-out pizza. Here’s how I ended the day on the balcony of our hotel:

Tomorrow, we will wander the city some more, and be on the campo for the third trial run at dusk. As I write this, Lucas is sound asleep. He told me that this trip is already more than he dreamed of. It is for me too, in terms of the friendships strengthened and friendships made. As one of the Italians said to me, the Benedict Option networks of Christian fraternity are being built right now. Onda is my contrada in Siena, but my real Italian contrada is the Tipi Loschi.

More tomorrow…

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64 Comments (Open | Close)

64 Comments To "So, Italy"

#1 Comment By Mark VA On July 3, 2017 @ 5:55 pm

MichaelLF:

If I may offer a comment: I agree with your line of questioning. In my view, the crux of the matter is not some fine point about the Hypostatic Union, or an ephemeral nuance about Transubstantiation:

As a Traditionalist Roman Catholic of “East of Europe” (Polish) origin, I see this as a centuries old “terrestris” power struggle between the Vatican and Moscow over the existence of Eastern Catholic Churches. Also, the even longer and frank dialogue between Moscow and Constantinople regarding primacy, contributes to this issue:

[18]
[19]

This is a long, multilayered, and nuanced history. Amateurs on all sides should beware of easy thinking – guilt doesn’t discriminate. For English speakers, historians such as Norman Davies, Larry Wolff, or Peter Frankopan can provide the historical, though non-Russian, background. Perhaps the Orthodox among us can balance this list.

#2 Comment By William Tighe On July 4, 2017 @ 8:06 am

In response to MichaelLF, and greatly oversimplifying, for Catholics “the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” which, in the Nicene Creed, is an object of faith alongside the other credenda dogmatized in it, is that empirically visible body known as “the Roman Catholic Church” (or, since for some that term means “the Latin Church,” one might say instead “the churches in communion with Rome”); for the Orthodox it is the Orthodox churches in communion with one another. For Protestants, however, and again speaking historically, “the Church” is either an invisible body, either “the elect” in all ages (for those of a predestinarian stamp) or the equally invisibly number of those who persevere in faith until the end – or else a visible body now divided into separated fragments (cf. William Temple’s reported aphorism, “I believe in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church – and that it no longer exists as “one” today”); cf. the Anglican “Branch Theory” ecclesiology. (Traditional Lutheran ecclesiology is a bit different, but in practice it seems to end up either with other Protestants’ views or in their own version of “closed communion,” which resembles, but is not based on the same premises as, Catholic and Orthodox practice.)

If then, “the Church” is exclusively – I am passing over a lot of necessary nuancing here – the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church, then those who are not members cannot be admitted to communion, whatever the closeness of their views on some subjects to Catholicism or Orthodoxy, since they are not members of the Church, the body in which the sacraments operate, and which are themselves the bonds which create or maintain that body.

#3 Comment By MichaelLF On July 4, 2017 @ 8:51 am

Rob G, “it’s vital to note that in both the RC and EO churches ecclesiology and Eucharistic theology are inseparably bound up with one another.”

The “inseparable bond” was created in hindsight and is now used as an excuse. The issue between the churches was territorial control and papal primacy, not the Eucharist. The early church had several power centers. Constantine gave it two major centers, Rome, which spent the next several centuries in decline, and Constantinople, which was the center of imperial power. When Constantine divided his empire in two, the administrative divisions created two traditions, Eastern and Western. Ecumenical councils settled on agreeable formulas that gave the two traditions unity, despite liturgical practices that were growing ever more divergent. When representatives from East and West attended these councils, they shared the Eucharist despite their disparate liturgical practices. Only after the two split did they begin denying the Eucharist to each other.

Siarlys, “Thus, nobody owes him an answer to his questions, and nobody is any less “right” for failure to engage him on this pointless debate.”

I don’t understand your point. I haven’t suggested anyone “owes” me an answer. I haven’t demanded anyone “engage” me. I responded to Rod’s post, just as anyone else has. But you seem to be criticizing me for even offering my opinion, which I don’t get.

You have every right, of course, to think the debate “pointless,” but I grew up among people who patiently explained to me that Catholics are not Christians, so I do feel there is a point in describing what Christians share. Furthermore, as I’ve mentioned before, the unchurched often describe the divisiveness of Christianity as one reason to stay away from the church.

Mark VA,

Thanks for the Times article. I was particularly interested in the Russian fear that accepting John Paul’s visit would lead Catholic priests to proselytize in the area. These fears are longstanding. In the 860s, Pope Nicholas and Patriarch Photios excommunicated each other over the question of which church would control Bulgaria. Territory and control divide the churches.

#4 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 4, 2017 @ 10:24 pm

The “inseparable bond” was created in hindsight and is now used as an excuse.

Umm, no, that’s ex post facto wishful thinking. The inseparable bond dates back to the Epistles of St. Paul. Some of us take leave to question whether what Paul wrote was divinely inspired, or whether all of it was, but its disingenuous to pretend it all came up in the last few centuries, or even the last millenium.

The issue between the churches was territorial control and papal primacy, not the Eucharist.

True, but their separate existence also severs their joint communion. And, papal primacy is fundamental. If you believe the Bishop of Rome is Christ’s Vicar on Earth, and it is necessary for salvation to be subordinate to the Roman Pontiff, then, you are not in communion with those who deny it. While, if you think that’s a lot of opportunistic bunk, you are not in communion with those who believe it.

I have never forgotten the comment at Rod’s old Beliefnet blog asserting that the Reformation will never end until the Pope returns to Holy Orthodoxy, because by putting himself above the collegial leadership of the patriarchs, the Pope was the first Protestant.

I haven’t suggested anyone “owes” me an answer.

Do re-read your own persistent line of questioning. You absolutely refused to be brushed off. You asked repeatedly, as if failure to answer your question was tantamount to surrender.

I think that Rod gets frustrated with this line of questioning because it is so fricking obvious to him. Its not to you, and actually, its not to me either. I’m happy with open communion. But I respect whatever ways communion is closed, when for whatever reason I find myself at mass, or at a confessional Lutheran service, or if I ever find occasion to take up JonF’s invitation to check out an Orthodox service. So perhaps I am in some ways in a better position to defend the right to adhere to closed communion, albeit it is not my principle. I’m arguing more from a First Amendment perspective, why Enlightenment Principles uphold the right of Roman Catholics to closed communion.

#5 Comment By Rob G On July 5, 2017 @ 10:37 am

MichaelLF, I’m not talking about ecclesiology as related to theories of church government, but as a sub-branch of theology — i.e., that branch that deals with the nature and attributes of the Church. Both the RC and the EO ecclesiologies are highly Eucharistic: there are any number of Catholic and Orthodox works you can read on the subject.

#6 Comment By MichaelLF On July 5, 2017 @ 2:54 pm

William Tighe,

Yes, I understand that different churches have found different ways to justify withholding communion from each other.

I’ve raised a couple of questions about this practice. First, why do churches choose to withhold communion rather than signaling their displeasure with each other in some other way?

My second and larger point is that Christianity has a problem with divisiveness and its divisiveness is one of several reasons Westerners are turning away from the faith. Many of the unchurched can’t fathom why Christians are so clubby within their myriad denominations and so fierce about protecting denominational borders when the gospels are so clearly against such an exclusive mindset.

Explaining that Christians have articulated many reasons for rejecting each other won’t rally folks to the faith.

Siarlys,

“The inseparable bond dates back to the Epistles of St. Paul.”

Are you saying that Paul excommunicated some who didn’t understand the Eucharist the way he did? I don’t understand what you’re trying to get at here.

“If you believe the Bishop of Rome is Christ’s Vicar on Earth, and it is necessary for salvation to be subordinate to the Roman Pontiff, then, you are not in communion with those who deny it.”

Yes, I agree that primacy is a huge stumbling block. But why choose the Eucharist as the means of signaling your church’s difference? Could Christians have come up with better ways to signify their differences and to relate to each other?

“You absolutely refused to be brushed off. You asked repeatedly, as if failure to answer your question was tantamount to surrender.”

Perhaps I understand “brushing off” differently than you do. I assume some have read my comments, thought them uninteresting and unworthy, and walked away without saying a word. I would call that “brushing me off.”

I’ve only responded to those who have written in answer. You seem to object to the asking of questions, but it’s one way to get clarity. Any perception I’m asking for surrender is unintentional.

“I’m arguing more from a First Amendment perspective, why Enlightenment Principles uphold the right of Roman Catholics to closed communion.”

I don’t understand why you raise rights and the First Amendment in this conversation. Nowhere do I argue or even suggest that the government should get involved. I’m asking Christians to think harder about why it is so easy to keep each other at arm’s length.

Rob G,

“I’m not talking about ecclesiology as related to theories of church government, but as a sub-branch of theology”

Thanks for that clarification. I would say that the theological questions around ecclesiology are even further removed and come even later than the theories of church government, at least when discussing the relations between Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy.

#7 Comment By Rob G On July 6, 2017 @ 7:18 am

“I would say that the theological questions around ecclesiology are even further removed and come even later than the theories of church government, at least when discussing the relations between Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy.”

Perhaps, but that wasn’t my point. What I was getting at is that you can’t compartmentalize these things as if they were hermetically sealed off from each other, neither can you downplay one against the other. Both the RCC and the EOC view the Church’s thoughts about the Eucharist and its self-understanding as inextricably related, and always have. Theologizing about this dates to long before the schism and thus has nothing to do with differences between E and W.

#8 Comment By MichaelLF On July 6, 2017 @ 10:46 am

Rob G,

“What I was getting at is that you can’t compartmentalize these things as if they were hermetically sealed off from each other, neither can you downplay one against the other.”

Here’s the part I don’t get. The day before any of the various schisms the East and West experienced up to and including the great one of 1054, members of either church could share the Eucharist with each other. The day after any of these various schisms members could no longer share the Eucharist. And then the day after the reunions, members returned to sharing the Eucharist.

So the problem between the churches isn’t the Eucharist. The Eucharist the way the two hierarchies punish each other for their disagreement on other matters.

#9 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 6, 2017 @ 11:39 am

I’ve raised a couple of questions about this practice. First, why do churches choose to withhold communion rather than signaling their displeasure with each other in some other way?

This merely affirms that your difference is one of premises, not facts. To you, its “signaling displeasure.” To those who practice closed communion, its simply “You are not part of this body.”

But why choose the Eucharist as the means of signaling your church’s difference?

Its not a matter of “choosing” to “signal” anything. Its a matter of what the Eucharist is FOR — within a given tradition. If the differences are not real or substantial or meritorious in your eyes, then of course it won’t make sense to you.

I take communion as symbolic, “this do in remembrance of me.” But that’s definitely not true of all traditions.

I don’t understand why you raise rights and the First Amendment in this conversation. Nowhere do I argue or even suggest that the government should get involved.

No, but you are asserting that there is homogenous feel-good standard that all and sundry should be answerable to, which runs parallel to the very appropriate standards for civic governance and exercise of civil power. Its apples and oranges.

Perhaps I understand “brushing off” differently than you do.

Indeed. You insist that people with different premises than yours are duty and honor bound to answer your questions in the terms of your premises. I don’t agree with those premises any more than you do. But I don’t consider people whose religious faith is based on those premises to defend their doctrine on any grounds but their own.

One of the dangers of an Established Church to True Doctrine, is that if I am REQUIRED to show up at your church and affirm your doctrine, THEN I have both right and motive to seek to change both. As long as their is no established church, your critique has no more authority or legitimacy than the Pope.

#10 Comment By Rob G On July 6, 2017 @ 12:57 pm

“So the problem between the churches isn’t the Eucharist.”

You are making this far more complicated than it needs to be. The view of the Orthodox and Catholics is that members of churches which are not in communion with each other should not receive communion together. This view entails beliefs reflecting both Eucharistic theology and ecclesiology, and is ultimately rooted in the early Church’s practice of “closed” communion.

#11 Comment By MichaelLF On July 6, 2017 @ 8:09 pm

Siarlys and Rob G,

I’ve run out of patience, so I’ll part with this:

You all are basically saying that the Orthodox hierarchy prevents its members from sharing the Eucharist in Roman Catholic ceremonies because they do.

I’ve tried to ask when, why, and how Christians decided to divide ourselves from each other as we have. I’ve asked us to imagine alternative ways of managing our disagreements.

I think these questions are important because one of the reasons we are losing the West is because lapsed Christians and “nones” frequently look at us as petty, quarrelsome, and unable to live our own values.

I’m not saying that differences don’t exist, aren’t important, or must be smiled through. In fact, I said so in my first post and in the first round of responses. But there is little willingness to think through the question of whether we can manage our differences better.

Perhaps I bungled the question, but I think I’m hearing defensiveness as well. I think we could have had a productive conversation instead of going around in the same circles.

[NFR: It is not a question of “managing our disagreements” — as if this were a problem of negotiation. — RD]

#12 Comment By Rob G On July 7, 2017 @ 7:11 am

~~~It is not a question of “managing our disagreements” — as if this were a problem of negotiation.~~~

MichaelLF’s problem is that he seems to be trying to analyze the Catholic/Orthodox division using a Protestant ecclesiology. This simply will not work, as the root conceptions of what the Church is are fundamentally different between the RCC and the EOC on the one side, and the Protestant communions on the other.

#13 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 7, 2017 @ 12:54 pm

I’ve run out of patience, so I’ll part with this:

You all are basically saying that the Orthodox hierarchy prevents its members from sharing the Eucharist in Roman Catholic ceremonies because they do.

You’ve been out of patience since you started this discussion. I could say, you’re an intolerant bigot who can’t stand diversity and pluralism. We could probably agree that the Roman Catholic church’s pretension to being catholic (universal) are artificial and full of hubris, but, as long as they can’t enforce those on me or you, I don’t much care. They believe it to be true, and for all I KNOW it could be true.

Nobody is saying “they do because they do.” (Do be do be do). That is all you can see in it. Its your straw man. What I’m saying, which as a heterodox Protestant is probably somewhat different from what Rod and Rob G are saying, is that your own personal notion of Christian unity is not universally shared, and is not mandatory on anyone who doesn’t share it.

Some religious traditions consider communion to BE a sacred meal shared by those who are in COMPLETE accord. You consider communion to be a sacred meal shared by people who have a lot in common whatever else they disagree about. I’m fine with any church practicing either one. What God thinks about it, God will reveal to us in his own time, probably on the other side.

#14 Comment By Mathew (Penthetruth) On September 15, 2017 @ 4:38 pm

I just read comments on this topic and it has been interesting.Eitherway I support the views made by Rob G.Thanks for this article btw