Orthodox Traditionalism vs. Roman Catholic Traditionalism
In what way do Old Calendarists
differ from traditionalist Roman Catholics, who want to preserve their Church customs? The
Catholic Church considers them renegades. Why do you object when the New Calendarists say
the same about you? (M.R., TX)
Your question is an important one.
The Orthodox Church believes that the Church exists where: 1) there is Apostolic
Succession; 2) where the traditions and canons of the Church are preserved; 3) and where a
right-believing Bishop in Apostolic Succession shepherds his people in good order
according to these traditions and canons. While we may have a complex structure of
Patriarchates, national Churches, and various autocephalous Church bodies, these basic
elements define the Church. All other aspects of the Church are essentially
administrative, and the Church's unity is ultimately preserved by everyones strict
and unyielding commitment to Holy Tradition.
In the Roman Catholic Church, Apostolic Succession itself
resides in the person of the Pope, who is Christs Vicar on earth. While modern Latin
theologians have tried to restate or even reject it, and while the ecumenical
pronouncements of the Latin Church have tried to downplay the significance of
Papocentrism, it is the fundamental dogma of Roman Catholicism and a principle repeatedly
defended by the present Pope. Even collegiality and shared primacy with the Eastern
Patriarchates are subject to the magisterium of the Papacy.
Thus, when Roman Catholic traditionalists separate from
Rome over issues of traditional practice, they obviously separate themselves from the very
source of Roman Catholic authenticity. One can persuasively argue that since, unlike
Orthodox, they do not attribute primacy to Holy Tradition, Roman Catholic traditionalists
have no foundation on which to justify their schism from the Mother Church of Rome,
especially when such separation is forbidden by the Pope himself, the very criterion of
Orthodox traditionalists, on the other hand, are not only
justified for separating from Churches or Bishops which violate the dictates of
Holy Tradition, but are required by the Holy Canons to do so. Any Church (or Bishop) which
preaches heresy places itself in danger; and those who see that danger, whether laymen or
clergy, must separate from it. We see, then, the basic and fundamental difference between
Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditionalists. Traditionalist groups in the Roman Catholic
Church are obliged to violate the ultimate authority in their Church to be where they are.
We Orthodox traditionalists, however, must heed the ultimate authority in the
Church to be where we are. And herein lies one of the most important differences between
the Latin and Orthodox Churches in general: the Latin Churchs appeal to the
authority of the Roman See and the Orthodox Churchs dependence on the authority of
the wholeness of ecclesiastical tradition, the very Body of the Church.
From the "Question and Answer"
section of Orthodox Tradition, Vol. IX, No. 4, p. 15. Originally titled