23 June, 2008

What's in a name? lots

I was recently looking for an Orthodox Church in New Orleans, so I popped open a phone book and looked under "Churches—Orthodox". Sounds good, right? I found only one listing, a certain Church of the Holy Innocents. I paid a visit.

It looked Orthodox on the inside: iconostasis, icons, etc. I also noticed a few things I had never seen in an Orthodox church before.

(1) Stations of the cross on the walls. I don't disapprove at all, but I'd never seen that in an Orthodox Church before.

(2) Literature on St. Bernadette's visions at Lourdes. Positive literature, might I add. Again, I don't disapprove at all, but I had the vague impression that the Orthodox don't approve of one of my more cherished saints.

(3) Certain other hints of something strange, whose details I don't recall.

I then found something about the Basilian Secular Clerks and a catechism. Eventually I found a document referring to the Orthodox-Catholic Church of America.

Later, doing some searching online, I learned that this ecclesial community is not in communion with either the Orthodox or the Catholic churches. You have to read halfway down their history page to learn that they were organized by a Catholic who was not happy with the doctrine of papal infallibility. He sought, and received, consecration to the episcopacy from a Syrian Orthodox bishop. You will also find on their webpage that in his old age he returned to France and died there. What you won't find is that, while in France, he reconciled to the Catholic faith and died in a monastery. (The Catholics there apparently recognized his episcopal consecration, holding to the traditional Catholic & Orthodox recognition of each others' sacraments as valid.)

Theirs is a strange tale, which I haven't the time nor interest to pursue. I know little about their community, so I won't comment further. I intersected with them merely because their listing in the phone book was under "Churches—Orthodox". It turns out that they weren't what I was looking for.

Next time I'll rely on websites that I know to be Orthodox and find the St. Andrew of Crete Mission in New Orleans (Orthodox Church in Americ) or perhaps Holy Trinity Cathedral (Greek Orthodox).

The organization of Orthodoxy is a hard thing for me to figure out. I have been told by someone who ought to know that I should avoid organizations like ROCA and ROCOR, which are uncanonical. I was also told in regards to the Orthodox Church in America that,

The OCA are not in communion with the Patraiarchate of Constantinople (to which my Archdiocese is dependant upon) or with Jerusalem or Alexandria. Antioch I think is in communion with them as as I think Moscow too.
This tiff appears to be based on a dispute over something called autocephaly. On the other hand, OCA appears to be a member of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America, which suggests that something is alright with them. The warning I received came back in 2004 or 2005, so perhaps the issues have been ironed out since then.

Note that OCCA is not a member of SCOBA.

This all reminds me of a funny story about Orthodoxy, told by an Orthodox Christian who was proud of it:
A person once told an Orthodox priest that he was very spiritual. Well, the priest said, you should think about Orthodoxy. The person explained that this was impossible, because he didn't like organized religion. In that case, said the priest, you will fit right in!

As to why I was looking for an Orthodox Church—I am still Catholic. However, the reader is advised that my wife and her family are Russian Orthodox.

I sometimes wish that I were Orthodox, yes, but I wish even more that I were a good Catholic.


Anonymous said...

Orthodox [dis]organization is interesting!

A year ago I discovered a certain Holy Theotokos Monastery in the middle of south-central Austin. It was a very small chapel & seemed to be attached to a small house.

To investigate further, I looked on Orthodox directories for Austin & found nothing; it wasn't listed along with the parishes. Upon further google-mining I discover it was an 'Old Calendarist' Orthodox church! & more or less in schism with the larger Orthodox church.

I also must sympathize with your final comment.

jack perry said...

Thanks for the comment.

The chapel I found was also small. It wasn't attached to a house, but was behind a very small house, at most two bedrooms in the old sense of a 2-bedroom house. (The 2-bedroom house I grew up in was larger.) The chapel was somewhat taller (it needed space for a choir after all) but I'm not sure it was bigger than the house.