An interesting and love-filled story, from Novus Ordo to Tradition, Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox – a little something for everybody.
The Byzantine Catholic Road to Orthodoxy
SOURCE: Journey to Orthodoxy
Jeremy (Basil) Dannebohm was an ardent young Catholic. What made him journey from his cradle Church to the Eastern Orthodox Church, only to return to Rome and then revert to Orthodoxy? His story is on this episode of the Illumined Heart. Kevin Allen hosts The Illumined Heart podcast on Ancient Faith Radio featuring insightful interviews on subjects of faith, theology, history, comparative religion and personal faith. The Illumined Heart podcast is a joint outreach of Ancient Faith Radio and Saint Barnabas Orthodox Church, Costa Mesa, California.
Kevin Allen: Welcome to The Illumined Heart on Ancient Faith Radio. My guest today on the program was raised in the Roman Catholic Church where he served behind the altar as an acolyte, went to Catholic high school and university, and seriously considered a vocation in a Catholic religious order and then life took a very different and unexpected turn in the road.
Actually, several turns and we’ll be speaking about how these turns in the road came about and how they led him to the Eastern Orthodox Church twice, actually. My guest is Jeremy Basil Dannebohm. Basil is a freelance writer and marketing consultant in interactive and social media. He was recently made pastoral assistant at St. Elias Antiochian Church in Arvada, Colorado. He’s continuing to discern his vocation and is presently enrolled in the St. Steven’s course on Orthodox theology by the Antiochian Archdiocese. He has a website called Again and Again In Peace and you can see his story where I first saw it on Journey to Orthodoxy, Fr. John Peck’s excellent site, or on his Facebook page.
Basil Dannebohm, welcome to The Illumined Heart on Ancient Faith Radio.
Basil Dannebohm: It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.
Kevin: It’s my pleasure. Good to have you. What struck me first and foremost about your story on Journey to Orthodoxy is that you really took your Catholic life and faith as a young Catholic kid and then as a young adult, which you still are, seriously. You’re exactly the type of young Catholic the church would love to retain and not to lose.
Basil: I agree with you. I think that when you’re young the glass, if you will, is full but as you continue to grow so does the glass but the fluid stays the same. I’m very involved. In a small town where I grew up there wasn’t too many options for alter servers so I served about every wedding and funeral you can imagine and was pretty much the official altar boy for Saturday evening mass.
The Catholic faith was a big part of our life. If we acted up in church my mother made us kneel in the corner and pray the rosary. It was definitely a very serious part of our lifestyle.
Kevin: Yeah. So much the way my wife, Colleen, was raised. You have uncles, I think you said eight, in the family that are priests and some second or first and second cousins that are nuns so your Catholic creds are good. You were raised in the Roman, though, not the Byzantine Catholic Church. Do I have that right?
Basil: Yeah. That’s correct.
Kevin: OK. As a college student you began to discern a vocation and looked seriously into various Catholic orders. How many did you look at and how many were you recruited by? The recruiting process is very interesting.
Basil: Sure. Actually it started before I was a college student. Going back to your first point of taking the Catholic faith very seriously, I actually left home at 14 and went to a private Catholic prep school where I lived in dormitories with other students.
It was there that I actually enrolled in what they call the religious vocations program that was conducted by a wonderful group of Franciscan friars that were really there to help you discern. When it came to discernment the Catholic Church puts out magazines, I think it was called Vision Magazine, that has virtually every possible order in it.
There’s actually a card, a business reply card, in this magazine where you fill in your choices of orders you want to receive information from and they get in touch with you. How many was I recruited by? Many to say the least. Various rules whether it be the Rule of St. Augusta or the Rule of St. Benedict.
Various different apostolic societies and orders. They do come at you, that’s for sure.
Kevin: You didn’t join one or you weren’t led to join one. Why was that? What were your experiences in them that you backed away from or didn’t’ make a commitment?
Basil: I looked at several. Each of them had, as a young person, a lot of different things to offer. Like I said, it was almost as aggressive of recruitment as the military. A lot of the Catholic orders, you probably know, are suffering tremendous shortages, so to get men and women to fill out that interest card and send it back is pivotal for them.
What I noticed was, and this was for me when I was younger, most of them were just orders of men that were more like I call them Catholic fraternities than I would religious orders. Prayers seemed to be second to whether it be social justice or just simply dressing in plain clothes and eating and hanging out.
There was nothing really spiritual that could really draw me in. The Holy Spirit never really told me this is the place where you belong.
Kevin: Even in the so-called more traditional and smaller Orthodox Catholic religious orders as I understand them like the Benedictines or the Trappists or even the Franciscans?
Basil: Absolutely. There’s people that belong as a Trappist. I’m not one of those. There’s definitely a beautiful holiness about them, almost an assonate monasticism. When I was younger the Benedictines and the Franciscans really were sorting themselves out, I think.
You didn’t see this group that seems to be coming to them now that’s a little bit more conservative in their views. You saw a lot of the same. This post-Vatican council generation was still running the show and it was really about social justice and so on than it was about genuine spirituality.
That’s changed today from what I notice. I’ve noticed some very excellent Catholicans right here in Denver that have really changed the way you look at the Catholicans. They are holy men. It certainly wasn’t that way when I was young.
Kevin: You wrote in your piece on JTO, on Journey to Orthodoxy, that as you were being recruited and as you were looking at these various Catholic orders you were simultaneously becoming, and I’ll quote you, “spiritually empty and hungry and that the Catholic Church was becoming unable to meet my spiritual needs”.
What were you looking for, Basil Dannebohm, that you were finding as a Catholic, if you can articulate that?
Basil: It’s interesting. I actually went to spend some time with an order, I won’t name them, but I actually went and stayed with them. One thing that I noticed that was most discouraging is that, for example, Catholics take Euphratic Federation very seriously, myself included.
You would notice that the vigil lamp that should set by the tabernacle was unlit and one thing I mentioned was let’s put a candle in that. Oh, we haven’t had candles in that for years was the response. Are we going to pray morning prayer together today? Oh, we haven’t done that together for years was the response.
What you were finding, as I think I mentioned, is it really was just a group of guys living together. I asked them what my ministry would be and they said oh you can go work at a bookstore or whatever you want. If I wanted to work at a bookstore I would certainly do that as a layperson.
What I was finding was that, unfortunately, a lot of them lost the direction that their founders had set in place or loosely interpreted it, so much so that habits were a thing of the past. Habits, both the physical attire and the way of life. It was unfortunate but you could see that there was definitely some struggles for a spiritual brotherhood.
Kevin: One hears, though, Basil, about interest in and return to traditional Catholicism in the Catholic Church. Is this not a trend or a significant trend as you see it?
Basil: Well, it’s not a significant trend but it is indeed a trend. To take you back to that point, as I mentioned before with religious orders. You’re also seeing young men now wearing the habit and really taking on more traditional approaches there. There is that generation who are saying we want tradition.
To the Catholic Church they call this the original mass. Well, it’s not. You and I both know this came about really around the 1400 or 1500 is when the Latin mass came in but to them this is what they see as tradition.
Really the combat where it got really heated up was a group of worshippers called The Society of St. Pius X under the direction of Archbishop Lefebvre broke away from traditional Rome as we know it. Toward mid-papacy of John Paul II he established a group called the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. That whole point was to basically combat the efforts of the Society of St. Pius X.
Today I believe, I may be mistaken on this, but I believe the society is now in communion with Rome under Pope Benedict. What you see there are a people who are trying to go back. I think one of the first things Pope Benedict did in his papacy was to allow use of the Latin mass or to allow Latin to be implemented into the Novus Ordo mass, which means the new mass.
So you’ll see some churches, very beautiful churches, who will have the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God, in Latin or the Sanctus in Latin. You’ll see some churches who do indeed have a high mass every Sunday. It’s interesting because you get two types of people in there.
You get the young people, and God bless them for craving that, and you get the older ones who have tried to Novus Ordo if you will and they’ve also come over to Byzantine Catholicism and for some reason been angry in a Byzantine parish so they’re kind of hopping around seeking new tradition.
It’s certainly a movement. Do I think it’s going to take the Catholic world by storm? Absolutely not, unfortunately.
Kevin: Getting back to your journey story, many converts to Eastern Orthodoxy, Basil Dannebohm, or to Orthodox Christianity are drawn by the consistency of dogma and doctrine that they find in the Eastern Orthodox holy tradition which many of them found was changed by the Roman Catholic Church and obviously in Protestant churches during and after the Reformation.
At this point of frustration and not going through with your desire to join a religious order was doctrine purity a concern or an issue for you at this point or was it something else, were it these liturgical things that were troubling you?
Basil: Absolutely. I think the doctrinal purity comes down to the heart of the matter. Actually I had a reader who read my story on Journey to Orthodoxy who replied that I was vain because I was drawn to the beauty of the orthodox temple. He said well that’s a very vain reason to go to an Orthodox church. Well, no that wasn’t what drew to me to Orthodoxy.
If I want beauty I can go to the Louvre and see beautiful paintings. Certainly upon entrance when I first walked into an orthodox church that overcame me. However, at the end of the day there were things that I didn’t accept and that didn’t exactly make sense to me.
There was a book that I read, the author slips me. It was a very small little book called “Orthodoxy Versus Catholicism” and it lays out very beautifully in a chart the doctrinal differences of the two churches. Outstanding publication and honestly it was maybe at most a 20 page read that completely changed my views.
It was like this is what I’m searching for right here.
Kevin: I believe, by the way, it was Father Ted Pulcini who was an ex-Catholic himself and who is now an Antiochian Orthodox priest.
Basil: That’s exactly the book. I’ve recommended it to many people, even if they’re not Catholic, if they don’t understand why I made this journey. My story on Journey to Orthodoxy certainly tells my feelings but if you want to know the doctrinal matters go pick up a copy of that book and you’ll find that that’s the reason why.
Kevin: So carrying this forward, how did you first encounter the Orthodox Church and give us a feel, other than the beauty of the temple itself, what your impressions were.
Basil: I first encountered it, I went to a book store in Wichita, Kansas that sold wonderful theology and hard to find literature and saw all this orthodox material and I asked the gentleman behind the counter where is there an Orthodox church? I’m very curious. There happened to be one in Melany, Kansas where my parents lived.
I walked into this mission church and they had just finished vespers. I was just getting in on the tail end of vespers and could see that this was a uniquely different liturgy. This wasn’t just a Saturday night mass. This was a group of faithful who were praying a vespers service in preparation to pray again in the morning.
It was gorgeous. I was just overcome by the smell, the sight, and most importantly I was just astounded by the people.
My first impression of these people was “my goodness these people are here now for an hour, an hour and a half and they’re going to come back in the morning and do orthros” (I had learned this; I didn’t know it at that point), and divine liturgy in the morning. What a discipline and what a spirituality! It took my breath away that there was something like that out there.
Kevin: Yet at that point you weren’t ready to make the decision to leave the Roman Catholic Church and you discovered a parish of the Byzantine Catholic Church which, as I recall you writing, as led by an ex-Antiochian priest. Talk about musical chairs. So what was the lynchpin that motivated you?
Basil: [laughs] Absolutely. It takes time. For me, as I mentioned earlier, I had been discerning my vocation since high school and believe me I had been around many different religious orders. No decision was necessarily going to be a quick decision for me. The first thing I thought about was the significant differences between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy.
A young gentleman said oh well we’ve just started a Byzantine Catholic mission here in town. I thought “what is Byzantine Catholic?” He said you’ll love this, come on over. You don’t have to leave Rome. It was interesting because the Pope is the supreme and visible head. You don’t leave the Pope.
If you leave the Pope you’re a Protestant. In Catholic school I remember the nuns taught us in the year 1054 the Orthodox broke off from the Roman Catholic Church and of course if you study history that’s not the case. As a matter of fact, Rome regretted the events that occurred the second they occurred but that was how it was taught.
So there was this genuine fear. Don’t to go orthodoxy. But aha, we have a solution and it’s called Byzantine Catholicism. That’s where I ended up.
Kevin: So Basil, take us from the point where you were a Byzantine Catholic. Tell us how that was. Describe your experience and were you starting to feel that spiritual nourishment you were yearning for and weren’t finding as a Latin Roman Catholic and what occurred from that point forward.
Basil: The Byzantine Catholic Church was certainly good because it was a bridge for me. When you become a Byzantine Catholic there aren’t a number of publications out there that are really geared toward “Eastern Catholics”. Most of the materials you get are orthodox publications.
Most of the service books are orthodox service books where people just jot down in pen little things like commemorating the Pope of Rome. In September of 2002 I converted to orthodoxy because what I realized was, again, this comes to the point of spiritually this is not complete. There’s some element missing from this.
This is certainly a great orthodox production, for a lack of a better term, produced by the Roman Catholic Church but it didn’t have the same feeling that I would have when I would go to vespers or some Sunday night liturgies over at the local Orthodox Church. Even as an Orthodox Christian I notice that today.
You see a lot of times we see Paraclesis services full of Byzantine Catholics. At our holy days you see it full of Byzantine Catholics. At our festivals for crying out loud they’re full of Byzantine Catholics. I was one of those at one point. I was one of those people who would come over for those things.
I’ve got to be honest with you, they felt good. They felt spiritually nourishing. Then you go back to your Byzantine Catholic parish and just sort of play orthodoxy if you will. Eventually you can only play so long before you want a taste of the real thing. On the Feast of the Holy Cross in 2002 I made that decision.
Kevin: Having heard that, we are going to get some emails from Eastern Catholics who are going to take great offense when you say that the Byzantine Catholic church or the Melkite Catholic church or any of the others is “playing” at being orthodox.
My discussion with Father James Babcock, which I know you’ve listened to a couple of times, is that they’re truly orthodox,(*) they’re in communion with Rome, they take their faith very seriously and so on. I’m not trying to soften your statement but they wouldn’t see themselves as even a branch of the Roman Catholic Church.
They would prefer you to describe them as separate churches in communion with Rome and not necessarily adhering even, we’ll get into more of a discussion with this in a bit, but even in some variance with what appears to me fairly straightforward Latin Western Roman doctrine.
Basil: Really you contracted yourself by saying that you’re essentially Orthodox but Roman Catholic. There can be no such thing. John Paul II laid that out very clearly in the Eastern Code of Canons which, unfortunately, I don’t know how many people have read but it definitely states that the Eastern Catholics are indeed Roman Catholics who adhere to Eastern traditions of worship.
When it comes to theology the canons state it very clearly. They are Roman Catholic canons.
Kevin: So your understanding, Basil Dannebohm, is that individual Catholic or Melkite or Byzantine or Ukrainian Catholics, theologians, or priests, or individual faithfuls really don’t have the freedom to contradict or not accept the fullness of Roman and Latin canonical and doctrine and dogma?
Basil: That’s absolutely the case. They all live under the code of canons of the Eastern churches which teaches in canon 597 papal infallibility. The Pope is responsible for approving all Eastern bishops in the Catholic churches, even those in patriarchal churches according to canons 181 through 185.
To argue that point, unfortunately what I see is a lot of people misunderstand the faith. That was even the case in the Catholic Church. To really study you might be surprised what you learn. That includes certain dogmas that the Catholic Church might hold.
It was very clearly outlined in those canons that even as a so-called Eastern Catholic the only thing that makes you Eastern really, at the heart of the matter, is your worship, but everything else you have to accept everything that the Pope says including his infallibility.
Kevin: Interesting. So let’s carry forward with your story. So you became Orthodox but your story doesn’t exactly end with “he lived happily ever after”. Tell us what happened and why you went back to the Byzantine Catholic Church and why you decided you could no longer remain the second time as a Byzantine Catholic and came back?
Basil: Sure. It’s funny because I had this sort of slogan to myself. Leave your baggage at the door and don’t go back and collect it. I was young when I became Orthodox and one of the things that I failed to do fully was to leave behind my baggage.
There’s a scripture verse, “leave everything else behind, take up your cross and follow Him”. I’m the first to admit I did not do that. I felt guilt, I felt family pressures, I felt that I made a choice that was potentially devastating for my spirituality. I kept trying to bring my Roman Catholic/Byzantine Catholic theological beliefs and practices into Orthodoxy and that just doesn’t work no matter how hard you try.
I realized I think there’s some unhealed wounds here. I decided, much to the shock of all of my friends in the Orthodox church, I said I’m going to go back to the Catholic Church. That went over like a lead balloon because I have beautiful orthodox friends, wonderful people, and great clergy friends who were devastated to say the very least.
For me, there was something that told me you didn’t quite solve all your issues at the door. I went back and unfortunately I learned that things hadn’t changed a bit really. Again, I felt that spiritual void. I tried to make it work. I would attend Eucharistic adoration almost nightly for an hour. I’d do the weekday mass, do the Eastern divine liturgy and try to get involved, sing in the choir. I’d do anything I possibly could to regain that same feeling that I had when I was an altar boy as a child. As I told you at the beginning of this interview, that glass grew and the fluid did not. I realized that I had made a pretty big mistake for my soul and that going back provided me no sense of inner peace.
One thing that it did do was provided me the opportunity to pray and to really look at what did I do wrong? Where did I go wrong in my spiritual journey and where did I feel the most fulfilled and the most at peace?
I’m a stubborn German so it took me some time to admit it but the Orthodox Church provided that.
I learned that the people who made me most happy, the theology that I most agreed with, and the liturgy that I loved the most could only be found in Orthodoxy and especially the doctrine and the people. Those things were most important to me. I could get a divine liturgy at St. John Chrysostom the Byzantine Church but the doctrine and the people were exclusively Orthodox.
For me it was hard to swallow my pride and go to the local Orthodox priest and say I made a mistake and then go to a bishop that I loved so dearly, the most wonderful holy man I’ve ever met, and to say forgive me, I was wrong, and really to be welcomed like the prodigal son.
You have no clue how scary it is. You look completely unstable but I wasn’t judged. Nobody judged me throughout that whole thing. There was not an inkling of judgment upon me.
Kevin: How long had you been back as a Byzantine Catholic before this u-turn if you want to say it that way, or if I want to say it that way, occurred?
Basil: I like that term u-turn. It was about four years or so that I had been back over. I gave it a try, like I said. You mentioned earlier in the broadcast the Tridentine services. I went to a Society of St. Pius X church and I went to a Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter church. I knew several of them.
As a matter of fact, I had a reception to welcome in some of the members of the fraternity’s clergy into my home town for a getting to know the Latin mass. I gave it a good shot. It took a little while to really realize that you can only go to so many masses and host so many receptions and do so many things before you have to look down into the soul of the matter, quite literally.
Kevin: Let’s talk about Byzantine and Eastern Catholicism for a bit here. As you know, because you did your homework on this before you came on the program, I recently interviewed a Melkite Greek Eastern Catholic priest. Frankly, I got quite a lot of emails about the interview from both orthodox and Eastern Catholics.
Some of the feedback I received, especially from Eastern Catholics, is that many of them don’t see themselves as a branch of the Roman Catholic Church and frankly take umbrage at my intro where I discussed them as being even a separate branch. They didn’t even like the branch idea.
Rather, they see them as Eastern Orthodox or Eastern Christians in communion with Rome. What I got from that, and I never purported to be an expert on this subject, is that the idea of independence and separate identity from Rome but at the same time voluntary communion with the Pope of Rome seems to be an important distinction.
Long intro to the question and that is, Basil, how do you see this idea of independence from Rome but communion with Rome as a Byzantine Catholic and as a former member of that church? Is that true or is it wishful thinking on their part?
Basil: Let me first begin my prefacing my stand. Without the Byzantine Catholic Church I probably wouldn’t be orthodox today. I saw the Byzantine Catholic Church as a bridge between Roman Catholicism and Holy Orthodoxy. I also say, however, that bridges have no foundation below them. They’re not meant to be stood upon.
I do want to say, though, that being said, that you made the comment “voluntary independence from Rome”, And that is I think that Rome would say “completely inaccurate“. You do find a lot of Byzantine Catholics who take great offense to being put in the same boat, if you will, as Orthodox Christians or as Roman Catholics.
They do seem to see themselves…I see that they have more of an identity with Orthodox Christians than Rome, but they do take great offense to the idea that they are under the Roman Catholic Church in any way. And you did say that they are under Rome, but voluntary independent. That’s not true.
But you also see a lot of people who for some reason or another – and I’m sure we’ll get plenty of emails about this – have become embittered with Rome for any amount of reasons. Maybe they were a rejected vocation of a seminary, or they didn’t get to cantor as much as they would have liked at Sunday mass. And they want to separate themselves as far as they can without fully separating themselves.
So some people come with a sort of misunderstood definition of the Eastern Catholic Church. And unfortunately, there is an Eastern Code of Canon law that exists, and it does clearly state that to be Eastern Catholic is to also accept all the truth, all the dogmas, which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, and who recognize the primacy of the Pope and that he is infallible.
So to say that they’re sort of independent from Rome liturgically, yes, let’s go with that. But when it comes to dogmatically, no. And it’s very clearly laid out no.
Kevin: And I’m a little uncomfortable in not having Father James Babcock here to defend himself, because he may have a different nuance on here, and perhaps I should have done. And so I don’t want to kind of contradict what he said, but my sense was that he seemed to say that Eastern Catholics, or at least Melkites are pretty much free to accept everything Eastern Orthodoxy teaches, even when it may differ from Roman Catholic doctrine.(*)
I also had someone say to me that they are free to interpret Latin doctrine in an Eastern way. And I’m not sure if that means that they are accepting the fact that they must accept Western doctrine, but they’re free to put it into Eastern terminology or not. But again, that’s not how you’re defining the Byzantine Catholicism. You’re saying that basically they’re Orthodox Christians, except they have to be in obedience to the Pope.
Basil: Yes. And of course, I would never say that Father Babcock doesn’t have…He’s clearly an expert. He’s a Melkite, I am not. I can only say what my research tells me. And certainly if I’m mistaken, God forgive me. But there was an idea that was raised by an Archbishop Zoghby and two of the main points in his idea was, number one, “I believe everything which Eastern Orthodoxy teaches.” That was number one.
Number two was, “I am in communion with the Bishop of Rome as first among the Bishops according to the limits recognized by the Holy Fathers of the East during the first millennium, before the separation.”
A lot of people buy that. Rome was not one of them. Rome rejected it, Cardinals Ratzinger, Silvestrini and Cassidy. Cardinal Ratzinger we know became Pope Benedict the XVI. Cardinal Silvestrini was the chair of the Eastern congregations, and Cardinal Cassidy was the chair of promoting Christian unity.
On June 11th, 1997, they issued a letter to his Beatitude Maximus and basically said that this was wrong. In fact, they sent a letter to Archbishop Zoghby who had said, this is a quote,“As to the declaration of complete adherence to the teachings of Eastern Orthodoxy on the part of Greek Melkite Catholics, it is necessary to take into account the fact that the Orthodox churches today are not in full communion with the Church of Rome, and that this adherence is therefore not possible as long as there is not a full agreement in the professions and exercises of faith by both parties.”
My interpretation of that — I mean, it’s certainly open to interpretation — but basically that tells me that to say I believe everything in which the Eastern Orthodoxy teaches, Ratzinger and his wonderful knowledge basically just said, no, you cannot have the best of both worlds. Because we are not in full agreement, you contradict yourself by accepting Eastern Orthodox teachings.
Kevin: And I think in fairness, most Eastern Orthodox that I speak with would agree with now Pope Benedict in the fact that adherence is therefore not possible as long as there is not a full agreement in the profession and exercise of the faith by the two parties.
Basil: I would, too. It’s ironic that while I was looking at the Internet, I did look up Father James’ home parish’s website. And it says, quote, “Holy Cross Parish is a parish of the Melkite-Greek Catholic Eparchy of Newton, Massachusetts, and is under the Canon of the Eastern Churches promulgated in Rome in 1990 by Pope John Paul II.” So their parish website apparently states that they do buy into those Canons. If that were the case, what I just read you is contradictory to that point.
Kevin: I’m not sure how to raise this point, but I’ll stumble my way through it. I’ve become a friend of a young man who is Byzantine Catholic, a very good young guy, and knows an enormous amount about the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. And I may have him on the program at some point.
And we’ve discussed this, it seems that there’s a lot more love coming from the Eastern Catholic churches to the Orthodox than is going back to the Catholics from the Orthodox. In fact, the responses I get from Orthodox on the issue of Eastern Catholic-Eastern Orthodox relations tend to be somewhat strident and a little on the brittle side, if not sometimes unkind. And you tend to hear a lot more, again, love and desire for rapprochement and unity, which of course Christ says we’re to be one. What’s your take on that?
Basil: I would absolutely agree. I have never been one who has not seen kindness from Byzantine Catholics, especially as I visit Orthodox parishes. They certainly do have an outpouring of love, and they do give this constant statement of we are one, we are one. And again, it goes back to that point when the great schism occurred. And the regret did not fall on Orthodoxy. We read in history that the newly elected Pontiff after this schism occurred was filled with remorse that such an act occurred.
So I think, and I’ve read some of the documents out there from Byzantine Catholics that are talking about how they love Orthodoxy, but they don’t love our lack of charity. Honestly, I think that it’s a matter of you also have to point the finger at the Roman Catholic Church. Not to get too hard-hitting, but I don’t see the debate, nor the need for caritas coming up between Rome and us.
Our Pope and our patriarchs seem to get along fine, they have a wonderful working relationship. But there has been no question of unity raised, at least in the present time. This big soapbox does come from the Byzantines.
And I can appreciate their love for us. As I said in part one, I notice that they come to a lot of our services and such. But the fact that they’re…I think we do love, because we’re very tolerant. We allow them just like we would anybody else. They’re always welcome in our parishes. The Orthodox Church is incredibly welcoming.
I know many Byzantine Catholics who frequent Orthodox churches for various services, even on Sundays for Divine Liturgy, and they are shown nothing but complete hospitality, as was the case when I was Byzantine Catholic. When I visited and moonlighted, if you will, in Orthodox churches, I was shown nothing but kindness.
Remember, I think hearing this argument from me is the fact that I was once indeed Byzantine Catholic, and I would never say — and that’s why I’m so opposed to this whole call to communion thing that they promote — I would never say that Orthodoxy is harsh toward the person. I would say that Orthodoxy is harsh toward the belief that the person brings with them.
And remember, when I said the whole idea of you have to leave your baggage at the door? Well, I left it at the door when I became Orthodox. I more than welcome a Byzantine into the parish. And would I love to have them be Orthodox? You bet I would.
When I was doing this, though, I never came at this as a Byzantine guest. I never came in with the agenda of, “Someday we will be one, I am your brother,” you know, all these things you typically hear.
Kevin: Going back into the ZOGHBY Initiative, Basil Dannebohm, have you seen anything from Rome subsequent to this letter in ’97 that kind of backs off that clear directive that Eastern Catholics can’t be in full adherence with the Orthodox churches?
Basil: Not at all. In fact, celebrating the 20th anniversary of it. That was October 2010 was the 20th anniversary of the Code, and Pope Benedict actually attended a congress that was celebrating the promulgation. And he wanted to pay homage to Pope John Paul II, and he said that he quote, “that the Eastern Catholic Church has flourished in carrying out the mission entrusted to them with new apostolic vigor.” Nothing’s changed.
And that’s not a bad thing, because remember, this is what it intended to be. But no, nothing has changed in their view. The imprint of the Vatican Councils on the Eastern Catholic churches is there. You can try to ignore it, but all clergy, deacons, people, everybody still have to live according to those rules today.
Kevin: So Basil, let’s drill down a little bit here, and I’d like to ask a couple of questions on specific doctrines, some of which I touched on with Father James, from the vantage point of whether Eastern Catholics are obligated to accept doctrines and dogmas of the Western Catholic church.
Indulgences, for an example. Now, Father James had mentioned that there were no indulgences, at least in the Greek Melkite Church. I got a listener to the program that sent me Section 23 of the manual of indulgences. What’s your take on that?
Basil: And Section 23 does state, as a matter of fact, that Eastern Catholics can receive an indulgence to attend a paraclesis service or an akathist service. So if that’s the case, I would presume — and again, I’m not a theologian and I’m not an expert — but if that’s the case, I would say that the Eastern Catholic Church does indeed accept indulgences.
Kevin: And I would assume as well with doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and purgatory, were these taught and accepted as far as you are aware in the Byzantine Catholic church that you attended?
Basil: I think that they would probably be, when you say taught and accepted, no, they were not taught. Are they accepted? Maybe not by the faithful in the pews, but as we learned from Canon 597, they are to be accepted.
If you recognize the Pope as infallible, then you do accept those dogmas, including the Immaculate Conception as the Catholics teach it. Which unfortunately, there are a lot of people who don’t even know the genuine teaching of the Immaculate Conception.Most people think it refers to the conception of our Lord. I’ll leave that to the listener to see if they really go get that teaching.
But if you’re looking at the Code of Canons, the most charitable way to say it possible, I would say that you do in fact as an Eastern Catholic, you’re obliged, anyway, to accept papal supremacy, papal infallibility, and the notion of dogma and indulgence. It’s clearly outlined.
Kevin: Well, I really appreciate it. Jeremy Basil Dannebohm, thanks so much for being my guest on this episode of The Illumined Heart.
Basil: Thank you, Kevin.