Nobody Expects the Protestant Reformation

Source: Real Clear Religion | Rod Dreher

Why didn’t the Renaissance popes see what their tolerance for corruption, in themselves and within clerical ranks, threatened to do to the Church — both to believers, and to the institution? The late historian Barbara Tuchman analyzed their self-destructive foolishness this way:

Their three outstanding attitudes — obliviousness to the growing disaffection of constituents, primacy of self-aggrandizement, illusion of invulnerable status — are persistent aspects of folly. While in the case of the Renaissance popes, these were bred in and exaggerated by the surrounding culture, all are independent of time and recurrent in governorship.

In other words, folly of this sort is part of human nature, and it will always afflict governing elites. Wise leaders will be aware of this weakness, and will not only remain vigilant against it, but also act to remedy manifestations of it before they can metastasize into threats against the very viability of the institution.

In Philadelphia, where I live, Catholics are reeling from a recent grand jury report revealing that the archdiocese left in place a shocking number of priests it believed had been credibly accused of abuse — this, even though church officials had previously pledged to have cleaned house. Upon hearing this news, a New York Catholic priest said to me the idea that any diocese would still behave so recklessly after events of the past decade beggars belief. Alas, it probably would have surprised Tuchman not one bit.

In my own church, the Orthodox Church in America, the bishops of the Holy Synod are advancing a vicious, highly politicized dispute with the primate, Metropolitan Jonah. The apparent reason has to do with administrative concerns, but many believe there are deeper ideological issues in play. Whatever the case, having suffered through two successive corrupt Metropolitans who, in Jonah’s words, “raped the church,” the spectacle of the OCA’s governing class (bishops and lay leaders) behaving with indifference to the church’s real interests is sparking deadly despair among many of the faithful.

On the pro-Jonah website (which is run by friends of mine), one reader wrote to say that he was finally fed up, and had left the OCA. Another wrote to report that he has decided to shelve thoughts of seminary, saying it would be too risky to put the future of his family in the hands of such an unstable church.

Similarly, among Catholics, Father Richard Davis, a former vocations director for the Franciscan order, told religion columnist Terry Mattingly that the sex scandals in his church have young adults who are considering vowed religious life wondering if they’ll be safe from sexual harassment if they visit a monastery. In my own case, realizing that solely because of institutional corruption, I would not want my sons to become priests in my own church was a catalyst for my own departure from Roman Catholicism.

Jesus himself said that the tares grow among the wheat, meaning that there is no such thing as a church of the righteous. This is a counsel against despairing of sin in the church, but too often it is taken as an excuse for complacency on the part of those charged with leadership. Besides, they may correctly judge that the sins of men, even priests and bishops, do not obviate the theological truths the Church proclaims.

What they miss, though, is that folly and corruption in the clergy make it difficult for ordinary people to take those truths seriously. In the past, religious leaders could have depended on certain factors to keep the sheep within the fold regardless of their own clerical follies. Much scandal remained safely hidden, and even when it stumbled into the public square, theological conviction and social pressure kept most believers within the fold.

Nowadays, though, changing mores and ubiquitous online media make it hard to suppress scandalous news. And as recent studies by Pew and by a team co-led by Harvard’s Robert Putnam have documented, nearly one-half of all contemporary Americans have changed religions. Plus, as Putnam and his Notre Dame colleague David Campbell reveal, young adults are leaving organized religion in unprecedented numbers. It’s clear that in the near future, the only Americans who will be members of churches are those who have actively chosen to be.

If this does not wake up bishops and other senior church leaders, and call them to repentance and responsible leadership, nothing will. When a culture of corruption comes to dominate churches, which depend heavily on moral authority to fulfill their mission, these institutions are in danger of failure. Bishops and other leaders who remain oblivious or indifferent to the effect their actions have on the faithful, who stupidly assume that they are at the center of the church’s real business, and who think that they can afford to reform at a leisurely pace because God won’t let their church die are dangerously deluded.

Ecclesia semper reformanda est — the Church is always in need of reform, said the early Protestants. Though one can dispute the radical theological lengths to which they took reform, it is impossible to argue that the ecclesial decadence against which they reacted was urgent and real. As the march of folly through history shows, established leaders often don’t recognize the seriousness of the crisis until it’s too late.


  1. Rod,

    In my experience, the higher church leaders who have not known what it is to guide their own families– they will enable decay and change nothing until the day comes their own personal world might be adversely affected. The upshot is decay and loss occurs to many, many far from ‘the sacred center’ until the people capable of restorative change feel the need to do so.

  2. The Protestant Reformation began in 1517, due primarily to Martin Luther’s criticism of the Catholic Church for receiving money — called indulgences — in order to speed up the time for a dead loved one to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In other words, Martin Luther considered these indulgences to be bribes to the Catholic Church, because the Catholic Church, in turn, would significantly decrease the time necessary for a deceased loved one of the donor to get to Heaven.

    The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) has seen much corruption in recent years — well before Metropolitan Jonah became its leader a little more than two years ago — and the bishops of the Holy Synod of the OCA appear to be promoting dissent in the OCA by failing to provide Metropolitan Jonah with the respect and support that he deserves.

    This dissent in the OCA’s top leadership branch — and its failure to harmoniously achieve OCA goals — may well result in the OCA’s decline, similar to the Catholic Church’s decline as a result of the Protestant Reformation in 1517. The fact is that many OCA members have become disappointed with the path that the OCA leadership has taken recently, and have left the OCA. If this trend continues, the OCA is destined to suffer serious consequences — perhaps even its demise.

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      George, you are completely correct. My take on why institutions fail is because like the Borgias, they only saw their own interests and because they lost sight of Christ and the Gospel, could not see the entire picture. Pride, self-centerdness, worship of principle over and above love (the Law being made for man, not the other way around), are symptons of the lack of love.

  3. No surprise. If you look at the history of the Catholic Church, there is a crisis every 500 years that forced issues to be addressed and also induced a schism. While no-one expected the Protestant Reformation, it should not be surprising that it is about 500 years after the reformation and it is about due for another shakeup that might result in a similar schism (see for an example). WRT the Protestant Reformation, it would not have succeeded if it wasn’t for the support of secular lords who wanted to rid themselves of interference from the Church. It’s an old story that at least goes back to St Ambrose when he excommunicated the Emperor.

    The same pressures exist today. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches are inconvenient to the global liberal agenda of eugenics, population control, sexual liberty, and abortion.

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      Anil, which of course explains part of the reason why so many of the “best and brightest” hate the “Manhattan Declarationist School of Orthodoxy.”

    • Let’s talk about the Orthodox approach to sexual morality in the modern context. Let’s leave to the side the whole abortion debate because I think any in the Orthodox church would agree that the wisest possible course is the one with the least moral hazard relative to when someone is ‘alive’ – at conception.

      We’re talking about the strength of the sanction against sex outside of marriage now– For all time up to about 75 years ago, bringing someone into the world meant a serious risk to your daughter’s life. Then for another 25 years, bringing someone into the world, while not risking the life, might risk life plans and prospects. After about 50 years or so ago most women and most men had access to the means to prevent conception affordably.

      That is to say– ‘one-of’ or ‘weak moment’ sexual misdoing no longer carries serious risk of death for the mother or economic hardship for the families involved. I think the churches at the parish level defacto recognize that’s not nothing.

      For the people involved, when so little physically is risked, what it means to consent no longer must therefore carry with it the expression of commitment it once did.

      Please let’s not go for cheap extreme parodies here about agendas and whatnot. I just think it’s necessary to explain to the young who understand all the foregoing very well why the right thing to do is the right thing to do– in terms that recognize the modern context, the old way of doing it is steeped in presuppositions no longer in evidence. Sexual misdoing does not risk death within a year as it so often did for the woman in the past.

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

        This is a good point Harry. Contraception and penicillin have removed the threat of a pregnancy and disease from the equation. Natural restraints against licentiousness have been lifted. This is one of the reasons for the Catholic Church’s hard stand against contraception. They, correctly in some ways, saw that when sexual intercourse is removed from it’s child bearing function, thinking would change about the nature and purpose of sexual activity.

        Still, there are more dimensions to the equation than the risk of pregnancy or disease although they presuppose at least of rudimentary understanding of the interior life. Chastity, for example, is closely related to creativity. A morally disciplined life channels sexual energy into different outlets, often highly beneficial to the person. Creativity replaces dissipation. Of course in our culture, where the passions are stimulated everywhere you look, it takes considerable effort to keep you mind focused on the higher things. I don’t think our youth, including our Orthodox kids, even have an awareness of this interior dimension any more.

        The more I think about it, the more I see that the Church has to develop counter-cultural, even catacomb, approach to the dominant culture. I don’t mean counter-cultural in the leftist sense, where people effuse praise on themselves for their ostensible self-enlightenment. A complete retreat from the world is not possible either, unless of course someone chooses to be a monk. I have in mind more of a quiet but very focused search for God, where the worship is understood for what it really is, where we rediscover the power of prayer, where we are informed of the corruption of the present culture yet still define how to work within it and, if possible, bring some transformation into our corner of it, and so forth.

        I also want our youth to touch, and be touched, by God. When that happens, the lasting foundation that can protect them from the sex-drugs-rock-and-roll culture can be laid.

        • I have in mind more of a quiet but very focused search for God, where the worship is understood for what it really is, where we rediscover the power of prayer, where we are informed of the corruption of the present culture yet still define how to work within it and, if possible, bring some transformation into our corner of it, and so forth.

          I believe we often become truly receptive to the world of God in reaction to some dramatic personal events. This is how we became more devout and gradually retreat away from the outside world and begin to clear our mind and heart.
          Many people are trying to get relief from really bad thoughts, feelings or “impossible” situations and often they need help to find a way to carry on with determination and hope.

        • I do believe many of our younger Orthodox pastors mistakenly and to our loss do not encourage cultivation of nor direct attention as to the existence of ‘the interior life’. So full of proclamations about who was killed at the doors of the Greek Patriarchate in 1851 and the many requirements related to ‘standing good enough to approach for communion’ , quite a list of exterior policies, procedures, pronouncements, hold your hands like this, kiss that, pray for this see if the propitiated God will notice the obesiance and leash the evils– there’s no ‘why’ to any of it and as a result, we see the result.

          I bet if you asked 100 younger people what ‘contemplation’ was, the responses would be generally about trying to remember all the various rules regarding when to stand, what not to eat when, what to read out loud (and forget the moment after) before doing this or walking there..

          You don’t talk directly about the ‘interior life’ as one among the various pietisms to be performed lest you get sideways with grandma and the pastor — you model it, you model the consequences of experiencing it yourself, you explain why it is worth the bother of attending to in the first place. Then people might rumble to the notion a whole dimension to their own life that they did not attend to is available.

          Interior life — you need one yourself to be able to educate about it to others.

          • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

            Lot’s of truth here. One way my pastoral ministry radically changed when I realized prayer was a boatload more effective than talking about stuff. Yes, talk is important, but only when it is important. Prayer can be much more powerful and often the one thing needful. So, instead of talking about something when talking wouldn’t do much good, I’d say, “Let’s go into the Church and pray.” We would trek over to the Church and pray. I saw problems get resolved for people that way.

            I’ll give you a couple of examples. A family was in terrible financial trouble. I’m no financial planner, but I could see the squeeze was so tight they would go bankrupt if something didn’t change (an elderly couple past their working years who didn’t have the health to go back to work). We prayed and it worked out — not perfectly and not all at once but enough to where they did not lose their home.

            Once I had a young man struggling with mental illness who was obviously over-medicated. I couldn’t tell his parents. They were devastated, overwhelmed, way beyond trusting anyone, and did not know what to believe. Besides, who was I to be giving medical advice? So I prayed that they would come to see and accept it on their own. Through a series of events that could be termed miraculous, they found the doctor who could help. He reduced the medications almost 90%. A few months later the young man was back to himself. (This happens a lot. Prayer sometimes leads the sick to the right doctor and they find healing.)

            A businessman came to me facing total ruin. He was afflicted with the deepest anxiety. He is a good man and a benefactor to the needy. It all hinged on a leveraged piece of property that was threatened with foreclosure, a strip mall that emptied when the commercial real estate market tanked. I told him I had no idea what to do financially, but I’ve been at the end of my rope a couple of times and what I do is pray. So we went out to the property, blessed it (really gave it a bath), and then we both stood in front of it and prayed for help from God. A few weeks later he heard that the bank decided not to foreclose. He is not out of the woods yet, but a whole lot better off than he was two years ago. Sometimes prayers are answered slowly, but they are still answered.

            A couple of weeks later my wife was using the computer at the public library, an older couple sits down and starts hunting for job listings. They had no idea what they were doing. The ask her for help and my wife hears their story. They are unemployed, flat out of money, desperate to do anything. The wife was a waitress, the husband had some kind of serious disability (walking problems I think but I don’t recall). My wife calls me, I call the businessman, he hires her (he has a few restaurants). Like I said, he is good to others and maybe that’s one reason why God is good to him. The woman said these events were the answer to her prayer.

          • An important aspect of the above, generally all of which falls in the category of telling God what it is he already knows you need, is the gift of clarification and prioritization that the activity itself, if done right, brings. My intuition is much of the boon there comes in the form of opening of the senses in the hours and days that follow to accept and be on the lookout for new possibilities– as your examples show.

            A different perspective on the meaning ‘Be still and know that I am God’.

            How much of serendipity comes from the energy to pay attention to detail and act upon it? I’ve never been one to think that understanding some fair fraction about how something good comes to pass makes it less a miracle.

            Folk able to read this on the internet who are having struggles might do well to watch these programs, just to get a perspective of where the tire really meets the street. Especially ‘Congo’ and ‘Brazil’.

          • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

            Harry, yes. And the possibilities are always there. My motto is just live your life, God brings the people you need to help into your life.

            Saturday I stopped to get gas. Walking into the store I see a young man, 26 years old, sitting on the grass near the door. I offered the perfunctory, “How’s it going?” That opened up a conversation that lasted over an hour, maybe two. The man was genuinely and authentically seeking Christ but overwhelmed with problems. I won’t go into all the details here but he was crying out to God for help. I even prayed with him and it was one of the intense prayers where he existentially and concretely encountered God. It completely stabilized him.

            He was also a victim of the fatherless family syndrome our enlightened 60’s culture onward has fostered. I run into to this more and more. Now when I talk to lost young men like him who don’t know what to do I say (as I did to him), “I want you to listen to me. I am going to talk to you like I am your father. This is what you need to do.” Then I tell them what they need to do. They listen, and sometimes they even do it.

            This man needed to completely start his life over. He was on his way to Miami for that new start. Then he froze. No one was there to help him. He lost his father (who left when he was 11 years old) and his brother who he looked up to all in the last year. I was going to find a job for him (the restaurant man again I wrote about upstream) but then saw he really needed that start. In fact, I could tell it was God leading him.

            He called me today. He is getting settled in Miami. I think he really may make it because the inner core, despite his troubles, is solid, and his faith is real. And most important, God is a father to the fatherless.

            If my tiny parish grows, I want it to become a place where people like him can find a home. Someday we will have enough healthy churches to do more of this kind of work (like St. Barnabas seems to do in CA).

          • Good for you, and good for him too! Attention to detail, the right thing teed up and waiting for you to do what you do!


    Although the apostasy has been in effect ever since the early history of the Church, this century has seen such a dramatically sharp rise in the influence of evil that even now it is becoming difficult for people to see the light. And things are happening too quickly and in too organized a fashion to be merely incidental. In the religious sphere, one finds a maze of false prophets all schooling their adherents in the acceptance of delusion; the insecurity on the political and economic fronts has inspired the New Age movement with its enthusiasm for a one-world government; culturally, the mass media is helping to promote a taste for what is crude, vulgar and grotesque, exemplified by the punk-rock heroes of today’ s adolescents; crime is rampant: abduction, rape, murder; cable television brings pornography into the home; there is a total erosion of values encouraged by a lifestyle which rejects Christianity as “inconvenient.”

    Let us not think that because we are members of the true Church we are immune to deception. “A courageous soul will be required, that will be able to keep its life in the midst of these temptations, For if a man is proved to be even a little careless, he will easily be exposed to assault and will be captured by the signs of the evil and cunning beast” (St. Ephraim). We must begin now to exercise our spiritual faculties and to set ourselves apart from the world in a conscious struggle against the spirit of the times–the spirit of apostasy. “Every avoidance of such struggle now, every compromise with evil today, be it even the most insignificant… will only increase the difficulty of struggling with it tomorrow.” We must saturate ourselves in the sources of holy Orthodoxy which alone will preserve to the end the fullness of the truth. Through careful reading of Scripture and other spiritual books; through prayer and conscious attendance at church services; through daily, determined warfare with our passions and thoughts–we shall develop a sense for what is truth and, amidst all the chaos and confusion of the end times, we shall be able to discern the voice of the Chief Shepherd Who will be calling everywhere for His sheep. Then we shall have no cause to fear what is to come; rather, made bold through steadfast faith, we shall cry out from our hearts: “Come, Lord Jesus!”

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      Eliot, i completely agree with your posting here. The corruption of some of our jurisdictions (GOA/OCA) began with their enthusiastic entrance in the WCC/NCC. Even today, despite its evident failures and inconsequentiality, they still cannot pry themselves from it.

      • George: Let us stay optimist … Below are the main reasons for being an optimist:
        (emphasis added)

        The Triumph of the Church, by St. John Chrysostom

        The expansion of the Church in spite of the persecutions proves the incomparable and unconquerable power of Christ. Did you see the incomparable power of Him who achieved all these wonders? How is it possible that people who are undergoing such horrid martyrdoms feel no sorrow? And yet, they rejoiced, and were elated! This is what St. Luke the Evangelist adduces as an example, when he says about the Apostles that “they left from the council rejoicing, because they were proved worthy to be ill-treated for the shake of Christ” (Acts 5:41). While no one can build even a wall with stones and plaster when is persecuted, the Apostles built up the Church throughout the world while sufferings persecutions, imprisonments, exiles and deaths as martyrs.They did not build her up with stones, but with souls –which is much more difficult; since it is not the same to build a wall as to persuade perverted souls to change their manner of life, to abandon their demonic madness and to follow the life of virtue. They achieved this, because they had with them the unconquerable power of the Lord, who had prophesied; “I will build up my Church, and the powers of Hell will not prevail against her” (Matthew 16:18).

        Consider how many tyrants fought the Church and how many persecutions they raised against it… Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, Nero, Vespasian, Titus and their successors right down to Constantine, were all idolaters. All of them –some more moderately, and some more harshly– fought the Church. Even if some of them did not raise persecutions, nevertheless, their attachment to idolatry motivated those who wanted to flatter them to oppose the Church. In spite of all this, the evil schemes and attacks of the idolaters were dissolved as cobwebs, scattered like dust, vanished like smoke. Besides, what were planned against the Church became the occasion of great benefits for the Christians. The reason was that such plans created choruses of martyrs, who constitute the treasure, the pillars, and towers of the Church.

        The wondrous fulfillment of what Christ prophesied about the Church reveals most clearly his true Godhead. Do you see the wondrous fulfillment of this prophesy? Indeed, “the powers of Hell cannot prevail against her.” Looking at what came to pass, believe what is to come. No one in the future will be able to prevail against the Church. If they did not manage to crush her when she numbered but a few members, when her teaching seemed novel and strange, when so many terrible wars and so many persecutions were raised against her from everywhere, much more they will not manage to injure her today, when she has spread in the whole world, and increased her dominion among all nations, abolishing their pagan altars and idols, their festivals and celebrations, the smoke and the smell of their abominable sacrifices. How did the Apostles achieve such a great, such an important task, after so many obstacles? Surely, it was by the divine and unconquerable power of Him, who prophesied about the creation and triumph of His Church. No one can deny this, unless he is mindless and completely unable to think.

  5. I don’t think Rod Dreher has much useful to say about Orthodoxy and his comments can be somewhat harmful. He is not just a neophyte but a self-absorbed church-shopper. After becoming a hardcore Roman Catholic, he abandoned Rome in a very public way – he was an intense blogger until his current employer shut him down – and opted for the OCA which he has discovered to his shock and dismay is filled with sinners too. One sees his disappointment setting in. To those who have followed Dreher, this is all “second verse, same as the first.” I expect him to ditch Orthodoxy, with sighs and public bashings of us, soon too. Next will be Buddhism perhaps.

    • Pravoslavac:
      May God guide Rod away from those people who might scandalize him. May God guide him to discover what is profitable to strengthen his faith.
      Personal Story of Fr. George Johnson

      We began to devour spiritual literature. In the course of our reading, we came upon a speech delivered by Alexander Solzhenitsyn when he was given the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. His theme and tone spoke to us like one of the prophets. The fact of his Orthodoxy did not impress itself greatly upon us then. His faith did.

      Solzhenitsyn said that our terrible spiritual condition was because “men have forgotten God”. He said that the fiercest attacks of the communist revolution had not managed to uproot Christianity from the Russian people. Again, at the time, this seemed to be attributable to fervour of faith stimulated by persecution and in no way connected in our minds to any idea of Orthodoxy being especially distinct among the “parts” of the Christian Church.

      We came upon another book called “Russia’s Catacomb Saints”. The experience was overwhelming. We thought we knew what devotion was, but came to know that we had not even begun. We realized that our faith was virtually non-existent compared with that of the numberless crowd of those who in Russia had cheerfully given their lives, blessing their tormentors the while. What was this fountain that gave them strength to “endure to the end”?

      We looked around at our church situation. Would the agenda of the leadership of the Episcopal Church, which seemed to consume the hearts of clergy with whom we were acquainted, be worth dying for?

  6. Introducing Rule 5 & 17 of Disinformation into the debate:

    5. Sidetrack opponents with name calling and ridicule. This is also known as the primary attack the messenger ploy, though other methods qualify as variants of that approach. Associate opponents with unpopular titles such as “kooks”, “right-wing”, “liberal”, “left-wing”, “terrorists”, “conspiracy buffs”, “radicals”, “militia”, “racists”, “religious fanatics”, “sexual deviates”, and so forth
    (here we have: “neophyte” and “self-absorbed church-shopper,” “hard-core RC,” and some home-grown prophesy: “I expect him to ditch Orthodoxy, with sighs and public bashings of us, soon too. Next will be Buddhism perhaps.”)

    17. Change the subject. Usually in connection with one of the other ploys listed here, find a way to side-track the discussion with abrasive or controversial comments in hopes of turning attention to a new, more manageable topic. This works especially well with companions who can “argue” with you over the new topic and polarize the discussion arena in order to avoid discussing more key issues.

    Pravoslavac, that is what you are doing here…. instead of answering the argument made by Rod Dreher. I don’t know RD, but I know when you “work the list…”

    • Pravoslavac’s post struck me as rather unorthodox …

      • My post may be unorthodox but not, I think, unOrthodox. I am merely counseling caution in dealings with Dreher. He is a talented writer and a man of strong opinions. While I am in no way suggesting anything about wolves in sheep’s clothing, Orthodox would be wise to know his track record. He has published volumes on his views on faith, in print and online, and they are highly revealing. His attachment to Roman Catholicism was intense, until it wasn’t, and his public attacks on the RCC were remarkable (I am not saying he stated untruths, but his denunciations were very personal in an oh-so-Dreher way). I would be hardly surprised if his views on the OCA, and Orthodoxy in general, follow the same course. What he learned to loathe about the RCC is present in our ranks too, as well all know. Dreher is a journalist, not a theologian or serious student of religion. He seems like a decent fellow – we have met but I can’t say I really know him – but also shallow in a way typical of journalists, who tend to know a little about a lot of topics. I pray he gains wisdom. If my stating an opinion is taken as dezinformatsiya, so be it. I was merely counseling some caution. I would take Dreher a lot more seriously if he’d been a student of Orthodox theology and practice for some decades, rather than less than half of one.

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

          I find Dreher’s writing to be top notch, both in substance and skill. I wish we had more of the give and take that he offers. I welcome it. I don’t think Dreher would argue with your point that he is not a theologian, but your point that he is not a “very serious student of religion” is not accurate in my view. He examines religion from the cultural side, and he does it very well. In fact, I wish more Orthodox would take their faith as seriously as he does.

          Maybe your objection is that he does not have a Ph.D. in Orthodox theology. But few of us do.

          • +Fr J: My concern is that, virtually from the moment he was christmated, Dreher had the habit of explaining what Orthodoxy is, and is not. Way out of his lane, IMHO. Most of the usual caveats about brainy and enthusiastic converts apply. His colleagues who knew him when he converted to the RCC tell exactly the same story … hence my statements. Let us pray I am incorrect about this go-round.

          • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

            It’s a vague complaint, Pravoslavac. All I read is that he is violating a sentiment.

          • Pravoslavac, most members of the OCA are converts…. nothing wrong with brainy and enthusiastic, is there? I think we can and do learn from each other, converts and cradles.
            In my parish we have about 20% cradles and 80% converts, we have a lot of university educated brainiacs and some, well, not so much. But we are a big loving family that lives and prays together. At lunch-hour we discuss the silliness of our Greeks, the earnestness of our Russians, the happiness of our Romanians, the disorganisation of our Ukrainians and the overall smartassiness of our converts…. Give RD a break. We need lots of people in the church who are enthusiastic about their faith. Where there is great passion there is sometimes the danger of going overboard… so what. I look at it this way, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and the family includes also the idiot cousin… (who of course would never ever post here, hahaha)

          • Scott Pennington :

            I think Fr. Johannes put his finger on it: It’s probably not how Dreher has changed over time that concerns some, it’s his opinion of the situation with Met. Jonah. The criticism sounds like a somewhat watered down version of the general “anti-konvertsy” narrative. I could be wrong (but doubt it).

          • Thanks Fr. Hans, and others.

            Pravoslavac, you have no idea what you’re talking about, from start to finish.

            You’re going to tell someone who came into the OCA during the Met. Herman scandal that he is shocked to find sinners in the Church? Please. I can’t be disillusioned about the OCA because I was never illusioned about it.

            Anyone who has kept up with my work knows exactly why I lost my Catholic faith — and it’s not because of things that are also present in the OCA. It had to do with the widespread sexual molestation of youth by clergy, and (moreso) the systematic cover-up and (therefore) perpetuation of same by bishops. That, and the refusal of the Catholic institution to treat its victims — and its perpetrators — with justice. I got to the point where I just didn’t believe the Roman church’s claims for itself. If, God forbid, I was to discover widespread child molestation in the OCA, and a cover-up by bishops, I would be outraged and disgusted, but not scandalized, because I didn’t come into the OCA with the same set of assumptions as I did Catholicism.

            You cannot point to examples of me setting myself up as an authority on Orthodoxy, except in the most general sense (e.g., gay marriage is not Orthodox) because I don’t know enough about Orthodoxy to say. You say that my “colleagues” when I became Catholic report that I set myself up as an authority on all things Catholic? Really? You know these people who worked with me in Washington back in the day? They’ve told you this? I don’t believe you.

            Finally, my guess is you just don’t like the position I’ve taken on the +Jonah situation. That’s fine with me, but your criticism here is dishonest, ad hominem, and irrelevant. Of course I’m not a theologian, but the essay of mine that Fr. Hans posted is not about theology, Orthodox or otherwise. It’s about the effect on institutions — in particular, churches — when the leadership class fails to correct abuses and clean up corruption, and when they are seen by the people as running an institution according to their own narrow interests, instead of the greater good of the whole. One doesn’t have to have a seminary education to recognize the problem here.

          • I seem to have touched quite a nerve there, Herr Dreher. I find it highly revealing – speaking of ad hominems – that you throw an arrow at me about +Jonah when I never mentioned the Met, or the current crisis, in any way. You’re obviously angry and personally overinvested, and I’m sure the debacle when you went to Philly and everyone thought you were dead didn’t help. Get better. And if you think the OCA doesn’t have molestation problems and bishops don’t cover such things up, you really are as naive and/or uninformed as I suspected.

      • Pravoslavac :

        Well, well … how the plot thickens. As it happens, I have long been a supporter of +Jonah, though I’m not sure I can still be one in light of what’s recently been seen on OCA NEWS. A rather unseemly story.

        Y’all still think Dreher is so great for the OCA and Orthodoxy in America? In record time he’s done some really impressive damage.

  7. Michael Bauman :

    Everyone who comes to the Church with a previous religious affliation has baggage, wounds, pre-conceptions biases. Even those who are baptized shortly after birth have them. Rod does not impress me as a chuch shopper at all. He has eliminated the Protestant and non-Chrisitan segements at the vary beginning becasue the sacramental life of communion with Jesus Christ is paramount. He realized when he made the change that he only had two choices RCC or EO.

    He also wants a virbrant parish life. If he expects to walk into a vibrant parish that meet his expectations he will be largely dissatisfied. My original parich 20 years ago was dysfunctional toward converts, especially female converts; had a priest who should never been ordained and was certain he was going to hell (his own words to me at one point). Three priests later, a good core of younger folk willing to take over leadership as the old guard dies off and they seem to be righting the ship. The parish I ultimately moved to had been in worse shape years before, but with good leadership and a willingness to change, has bloosmed into a model parish (IMAO). So it takes work, dedication and a lot of blood, sweat, prayers and tears.

    Personal opinions can get in the way (my own do all the time) but I think Rod is seeing the foundational approach to Jesus Christ is substantially different in the EOC than it is in the RCC. He might toy with the idea of switching jurisdicitions, but since (even if we refuse to be united on positive things) our problems are Pan-Orthodox, it would not do him much good. I think he sees that from what I’ve read.

    One thing he won’t do is cover-up. If that is what is expected from a ‘real’ Orthodox person, he won’t be one, and I will not either.

  8. Fr. Peter Dubinin :

    Yes my friends, we have much for which we must repent. Solzhenitsyn would recount how Russians responded to the evils which befell them in the 20th century with – we forgot God. So many busy speaking about God, and yet so few really knowing God. Knowing God alone brings salvation to us and those around us. We all know this; yet when was the last time any of us fell flat on our faces before God in true humility, asking for the grace of the Holy Spirit to aid us to truly repent? Acquire the spirit of peace and thousands around you will be saved; we know this. Fascinating how St. Seraphim “locked” himself away to be with God and the people striving to spend a moment with Fr. Seraphim, to be in the presence of God’s grace, numbered in the hundreds and then some. What would God do with us and in us if we really did repent?

    • Fr. Peter Dubinin :

      What would God do with us and in us if we really did repent?

      Repentance cleanses the heart

      As a general rule fasting and praying awaken in a person the desire for a more spiritual way of life. When the passions of the body become pacified, a person’s mind is enlightened, and he begins to see his own shortcomings better. He becomes ashamed of his sinful deeds and bad habits, and he feels a strong desire to cleanse his soul through repentance before God.

      After the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, when the crowd asked, “What shall we do, brothers?” The Apostle Peter answered: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit … Save yourselves from this corrupt generation!” (Acts 2:37-40). These words pointed out the deep, sinful sore in humanity, which can be healed only through repentance, rebirth in Christ, and unity with Him.

      So, as we see, the Apostles called for profound changes in people’s attitudes, a break with their past, and suppression of passions. The acceptance of Christ as our Savior requires a fundamental transfiguration of our thoughts and feelings: a sincere desire for a New Life in Christ. That is why the Church is so persistent in its calling to repentance during Lent. Repentance is the beginning of salvation. And fasting — being a restraint from gluttony, all kinds of excesses, and worldly concerns — contributes to true repentance! That is how the goal of our faith is reached, as Saint Paul teaches: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature: former things have gone” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

      We firmly believe that the return of Athos to interiority and prayer and generally to Hesychast Theology is due largely to the presence of the sanctified Elder Joseph the Hesychast. As you will know from all that has circulated up to now about the blessed Elder Joseph, he was a man who did not possess the skill of worldly things, was not even a beginner among them. He studied to the second grade. And it is easy to see this if you look at a copy of one of his handwritten letters. But as a possessor of the fullness of divine grace, having achieved by full enlightenment of his grace-filled mind to ascend to the highest steps of Theology and become a perfected theologian. For we know that a theologian is not one who has studied in the modern Theological Schools but one in whom speaks God the Logos. Theology is a gift of the Holy Spirit. The blessed elder wrote concerning this, “When in obedience and stillness one purifies the senses and calms the mind and cleanses the heart, then he receives grace and enlightenment of knowledge. He becomes all nous, all clarity, and filled with theology such that if three were writing they could not keep up with the flow. He spreads peace and complete inactivity of the passions throughout the body.”


  1. […] Nobody Expects the Protestant Reformation – It’s good to know that Churches across the board, whether Catholic or Orthodox, have in some sense cultures of corruption.  In no sense is that all there is, but it’s enough to turn some people off from “organized religion” altogether. Now, in an age where social pressure isn’t keeping people in Churches (at least “ethnic” Christians are going to Church for culture…), what exactly is the Church going to do to “keep” people?? […]

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