Wednesday, May 02, 2007

An Ex-Orthodox on "The Journey Home"

I never watch the program, but my ears perked up last week when I heard the guest on EWTN's "The Journey Home" Monday night would be a former Orthodox Christian. Out of concern about what might make an Orthodox convert to Catholicism, I tuned in. As it turned out the man in question, Dn. Joseph Pasquella, is in fact a former Antiochian Orthodox deacon.

Baptized Roman Catholic, he joined The Way International before being inspired by the writings of the Evangelical Orthodox. He then took the St. Stephen's Course, became a deacon, and founded a Byzantine mission in Cape Cod. Then at some point, he felt he had to convert and, after being laicized, became a Ukrainian Catholic deacon and ignorance about the Western Rite may have been a contributing factor.

I wasn't terribly impressed with his presentation. (E.g., he couldn't pronounce "Akathist." He appeared on camera wearing a business suit and a priest's pectoral cross, then gave a priest's benediction. Etc.) I was edified that during this program, aimed at stealing misleading converting Orthodox to the Roman church, many questions came in about Orthodox faith and practice: icons, the Jesus Prayer, our view of the Pope, facing liturgical East, etc. As the Bible says, "You thought evil against me: but God turned it into good, that he might exalt me, as at present you see." Genesis 50:20 (Douay-Rheims).

However most importantly, after watching his testimony, I'm still not entirely certain why he felt he had to leave Orthodoxy and join the Roman church. At one point, he spoke highly of the book Jesus, Peter and the Keys. (I read it and left decidedly unconvinced.) He also alluded to his aversion to not having "a court of last appeal" at the Vatican. (Guess he never heard you could appeal to the Patriarch or the Holy Synod of Antioch; I actually know of someone who did so. Successfully.)

The pivotal moment in his leaving the church seemed to be an episode that occurred as he was lying in bed during an illness. He said he was moved during a televised Vatican service when Pope John Paul II looked at the camera — "I felt like he was looking directly at me," he said and declared, "The Church must breathe with two lungs: East and West."

Which raises the question: was he motivated to leave the Orthodox Church because he believes it only celebrates one liturgy, an Eastern one, and a truly catholic Church must also be Western? What if he had known the Antiochian Church (and ROCOR) have a Western Rite? Should the Evangelical Orthodox who helped him form his mission have told him about the Western Rite? Would knowing about the Western Rite have changed his mind, or slowed him down enough that he might reconsider leaving the Orthodox Church (with all the consequences that brings)? And is he alone in his sentiments?

As I mentioned, he was too inarticulate to ascertain. But these are questions every Orthodox Christian, especially those in positions of leadership, should consider carefully.

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