Reverence for the Life of the Church

Father Joseph Wilson wrote this as a comment, but we thought it deserved more attention.

When I first began regularly reading Monomakhos, it was quite an education for me. As a Roman Catholic, I was surprised to hear concern expressed about heretical, un-Orthodox tendencies in the life of your Church. Looking at Eastern Orthodoxy and then contemporary Catholicism seemed to be a bit like comparing a Ballet to a food fight in the cafeteria.

As I have read and thought, and looked at other (“Orthodoxy in Dialogue”) websites, I have seen much more clearly what your concerns are. I have also been struck and alarmed by the parallels in our situations. We are both dealing with entrenched forces in our respective churches which have neither regard nor respect for Tradition and custom, no reverence for the life of the Church, the way things have been done, the sanctifying influences of ecclesial life which have blessed countless believers and helped them to holiness. There is something seriously wrong with the family member in a well-ordered if imperfect household who is impatient with his elders, dismissive of the family customs and stories, utterly unmoved by the kind of common family experiences of life which move the wanderer to tears upon returning to the Christmas or Thanksgiving table. The college junior returning home should be very mindful of the love around that table, and the memories of past experiences of love, for that is the heart of the matter. The maverick unmoved by these things has missed the point entirely: all he sees is things which he thinks ought to be different, impatient as he is as the first member of the family to have gotten everything right!

The point of the whole thing is the Lord Jesus, our share through Him in the life of the triune God, our communion with those who have gone before us in faith, and our stumbling but persistent efforts to follow in the path of the saints. The maverick sees the Church as a laboratory. Far from reverent at what he can receive through her, he sees only opportunities to tinker. And let us not misunderstand the obsession which enables all of this. We live in an age gone mad with the frantic striving after sexual autonomy. With that as the holy grail, people go to extraordinary lengths not just to deny reality, but to re-imagine it, to describe it in terms which it’s not and can never be. If the maverick can remake his parish, his diocese, his whole Church to his own pleasing he removes unwelcome reminders that his real goal, sexual autonomy, is not such a good idea after all.

To speak for a moment of my own Church: I am astonished by what I am seeing. In the Catholic understanding of Church, the Pope is not a Tsar. He is not an Autocrat. He stands under the Revelation, its source almighty God, its two streams of Scripture and Tradition, just as truly as I or any other Priest does. It is not for him to express and expound upon novel doctrines, but to guard the deposit of the Faith and expound upon it.

The current Pope articulates a confused idea of “synodality,” evidently endless discussions between the Faithful and even those no longer faithful at all. Meanwhile his style of governance is strongly directive, even autocratic. He contradicts his predecessors (Benedict XVI on the fostering of the traditional liturgy of the Church, John Paul II in his clear Magisterium on marriage, family life and sexuality), issues confusing teaching (Amoris Laetitia on marriage) and then ignores the questions which come up and does not feel at all obligated to clarify when he has been obscure. Henry Sire, in his book The Dictator Pope (penned under the nom-de-plume Marcantonio Colonna), recounted the inconsistencies and autocratic acts of the first few years of the Pontificate, but they have only piled up more dangerously since (a theologian friend of mind commented perceptively, “Yeah, he has no consistent standard of governance. He governs like Allah”).

Why skate so dangerously near chaos? Eventually, however reluctantly, the only conclusion I can reach which is consistent with the evidence is that he wants chaos. Famously, he told young people early on, “Hagen Lios!” Well, he really, literally meant it.

And if my Church and your Church are in no shape to boldly, consistently proclaim the Faith regarding the creation of Man, man and woman in God’s image, the sanctity of human life, etc., how much easier will be the road of those planning the reset at Davos. It is already happening. We closed the churches and withheld the sacraments from the Faithful out of respect for what had priority: the edicts of public health commissars over the blessed Eucharist. We tolerate bishops, priests and theologians who preach a morality indistinguishable from that of Cosmopolitan magazine.

It seems our blessed Lord was being quite literal: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” We had better lay hold of the pearl of great price, repent, confess, be forgiven and receive our Lord with great fervor, and speak and witness uncompromisingly to the Gospel. We had better begin to live the life of the Church as we can and as deeply as possible. Otherwise, on the last day when He appears and says, “Knowest thou Me?” we will be hiding behind a tree like our first parents. The treasure He entrusted to us will have turned to ashes.

About GShep


  1. Hear! Hear! Well put, Father. Thank you.

    For the sake of your communion and that of the whole world I wish Pope Benedict XVI were still on active duty. The pontificate of his successor has not proven to be an anchor to windward for traditional Christians on troubled waters. On the contrary, it’s been a disappointing source of anxiety.

  2. Some interesting reflections, to be sure.

    A bit off topic, but I wonder what the bishop of Istanbul is thinking now?!

    Someone has even more egg on their face now, perhaps.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      This is a very interesting development. I would have never expected anything like this out of the UN.

  3. George Michalopulos says

    Fr Joseph, thank you for this perceptive critique.

  4. “Hagan lio” [“Make a mess”], I think…

    Anyway, a wonderful analysis
    for which, many thanks.

  5. I receive the quarterly publication put out by the Monastery of the Holy Archangel Michael, Canones, NM. It is no coincidence this quote was included:
    “If before much damage has been done, you will dam up the channels of wickedness, you will be able to recover again what has been spoiled and to add to it not a little further produce.” ~St. John Chrysostom

  6. The path is inward, we will never evolve through the outside. This is the path God gives us when we are ready to use it.

  7. George Michalopulos says

    I wonder how the wonder boys at the Phanar are going to spin this? I guess the canonical Church of the Ukraine still hasn’t gotten the memo that Epiphony’s sect is the “canonical” one.