The Greek Orthodox Church and A New View from a Catholic Pew

By dogcatcher on December 9th, 2016
(“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945*) It was an interesting wedding season witnessing most of it from a Catholic Church pew. In past years, the weddings we attended were generally in Greek Orthodox Parishes. There would be one or two outside the Greek Orthodox Church. But this year was different for a variety of reasons, both interesting and disturbing. Three out of the six weddings I attended were held in the Catholic Church. These three weddings involved a Greek Orthodox person marrying a Catholic person. At the third Greek Orthodox-Catholic wedding held in the Catholic Church, I had took an interest in the Parish bulletin of the Queen of All Saints Basilica in Chicago. There, I found a letter authored by the Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, the Most Reverend Francis Kane. In this letter, he discussed the “Catholic Leadership 360 Review Process”. The letter stated many things, but what struck me as significant was the following statement: “The review process is part of the ordinary structure required by Archdiocesan Policy of every diocesan priest every five years.” Then the letter went on to ask for a Parish wide survey of parishioners as well as disclosing the results to parishioners! My God I thought to myself, where am I? In contrast to this normal fact based management style is what has become the authoritarian, arbitrary and secretive style as practiced in the Metropolis where I live. In my 20 plus years on the Parish Council of my parish, we were never asked nor mandated to perform a 360-degree review of our clergyman. Instead, if we ever suggested even minor improvements in his performance or his ministries, suddenly, we became pariahs. It was like we would morph from a valued Parish Council member to an apostate. Did our Greek Orthodox Hierarchy encourage a dialogue on topics such as a review of the assigned clergyman? No, which is now a major reason for our decline. Also, there is another very foreign concept presented in Bishop Kane’s letter: he asks parishioners to contact him with any concerns or comments. I had to read the letter repeatedly to confirm I was reading it correctly. I shared the letter with my wife who was also shocked. Then it hit me. It hit me hard and often as I thought about it. I understood that our hierarchs made us think, or rather more accurately made us react, like “Pavlov’s dog”. That is, through repeated “training” by pressure to remain silent and to not raise our voice in the face of things going awry, we became docile and inert. So, is it any wonder where we have sown the seeds of an inadequate and uncaring “theocracy” that we are now forced to accept lay leadership who only know how to nod their heads yes. The seeds of decline were firmly planted and now weeds have engulfed the garden of our lord. Here is a link to a similar letter written by Bishop Kane regarding a different parish: The epilogue that followed from these marriage ceremonies was even more enlightening. As I spoke to the couples and their parents, I learned that in all three weddings performed in the Catholic Parish, these young couples would be raising their future children in the Catholic Church and not in the Greek Orthodox Church, as in days’ past. In addition to these 3 weddings, I attended 3 other weddings in the Greek Orthodox Church. I also asked whether the newlyweds would be raising their children in the Greek Orthodox Church. One couple told us that even though they were married in a Greek Orthodox Church, and they would baptize their future children in the Greek Orthodox Church, the children would be raised in a different Christian faith. The main reason given by some of the couples for marrying or baptizing their kids in the Greek Orthodox Church was to appease parents and grandparents. We must now acknowledge that the number of weddings and baptisms held in each Metropolis does not automatically translate into future Orthodox adherents. We no longer can make these assumptions. In fact, it is more likely that even those who are married in the Greek Orthodox Church will be leaving the church, or at best, become transactional Orthodox. They will attend the Greek Orthodox Church for weddings, baptisms and funerals, but will not become stewards. I would personally like to congratulate our Hierarchs for creating an unfriendly, hostile and toxic environment (all irony intended). The consequences of the miserable environment that they have instituted forces many of our adherents to either declare their allegiance to their local Ephraimite Parish or Monastery and signing over their soul to a heretical cult or to leave the Greek Orthodox Faith entirely to find a new relevant spiritual home. What reasonable conclusions can you reach from the exercise of asking people why they are choosing to raise their future families in the Catholic or other Christian Churches over the Orthodox Church? First, we are witnessing a severe loss of faith in the institution of the Greek Orthodox Church, well beyond the loss of religious faith suffered by other faiths. Our young people are leaving. Vindictive rule by men, some of whom live by poorly hiding their sexual leanings, makes it difficult to respect these “men of God”. Second, when the faith-abiding Clergy are threatened and marginalized for speaking the truth, these hierarchs are even more difficult to respect. Our young people have seen their hierarchs care more about appearing in the mainstream press and see their lay leaders as caring more about seeing themselves in the Orthodox Observer or, what is worse, having a pathological need for adoration from a dysfunctional hierarchy. Finally, the lay leaders, priests and hierarchy fail to demand accountability from their own institution, which is absolutely necessary for its viability and growth. Instead, too many “leaders” have taken a different and damaging role in the Church. They should be called what they are, enablers who have opened the doors wide for our young adults who are exiting and choosing a different faith. [*Dietrich Bonhoeffer (4 February 1906 – 9 April 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism and founding member of the Confessing Church.]