There are many in the Church who would use terms such as liberal Catholics or conservative Catholics. But for me, these terms are not helpful. What I want and hope to be is in line with the Church– to be orthodox. Orthodox means right thinking, to have the heart and mind of the Church. Orthodox is a term I think we must use today. There used to be another word that we used–Catholic. Catholic means universal, but what is not often explained is that the word means universal in mission, but also universal in doctrine, right thinking. At one time, it was used to distinguish true believers, “Catholics,” against heretics. Because the word “Catholic” has become confusing with many wondering what type of Catholic you are and how you would define yourself, many might find the term “orthodox” as helpful– meaning you are in line with Church teaching and are open to correction if they error.
Orthodox is not conservative although it can be thought to be so from those on a more progressive or liberal perspective. It is not liberal although it can be thought to be so from some who are from a very conservative viewpoint. It is not a middle of the road position either as you might think using these political terms. Where is the middle between right and wrong? I am not suggesting that either conservative or liberal is right and the other wrong. Rather, I am suggesting that “right” is to think in line with the Church and “wrong” is to not. One cannot pick and choose what they will believe and what they will not believe, what they will hold true, and what they won’t. To that, the term “cafeteria Catholic” was coined. This is relativism and it runs rampant even among Catholics. Cardinal Ratzinger before he was elected Pope says of Relativism, “Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and swept along by every wind of teaching, looks like the only attitude acceptable to today’s standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything for certain and which has as its highest goal ones own ego and ones own desire.” A revolution of relativism has taken over our world and infiltrated our Church. It is this revolution that I am countering with another–orthodoxy. In my investigation into the Catholic Church I quickly learned that Catholicism is a package deal with one teaching affecting another and the way we pray affecting the way we live. As I recognized the relativism of the Protestant denominations, I read on the door of the Catholic Church that the “cafeteria is closed.”
Orthodoxy brings with it unity, freedom, and love. It brings with it a sense of comfort not having to rely on our own abilities to make up new doctrine or ways to express our devotion to God. Orthodoxy has a spirit of humbleness about it–not one of triumphitalism. How does one know they are in line with the teaching of the Church? Seems sort of arrogant to say as if we are saying, “We are right and you are not.” In a world of tolerance and non-judgmental attitudes for us to say we are in line with truth and believe rightly sounds rather pompous and egotistical. The reality is there is nothing brash or arrogant about it, but rather quite the opposite–it is really what it claims to be, poor in spirit. Because for instance we are open to correction, open to being wrong. Conforming our thoughts and opinions with that of the Church, not putting our own opinions above that of the Church’s. It truly is a self-emptying and at times a self-sacrifice. It is saying, “I must decrease and you must increase.” More than that, we seek to understand where we error so as to explain the faith it all its splendor. It is a recognition that we are sinners in need of guidance, direction, and healing. We find this in the arms of the Church–in orthodoxy. It is freeing, freeing us to get outside ourselves to serve and to go out to spread the good news in witness and word.
Orthodoxy is not stagnant, but rather adventurous. It is not passive, but dynamic. G.K. Chesterton in his book Orthodoxy remarks that it would be easy to go along with heresy after heresy in its history. “But to avoid them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.” We are in a boat, the Church that is often tossed about by the waves of thought never to be capsized.
Orthodoxy is focused on Christ and as such is closely associated with the Eucharist. Orthodoxy only is possible through the revelation of God fully expresssed in the person of Christ. The “source” of which orthodoxy draws its life is the Eucharist and the Eucharist is the summit of which orthodoxy points towards.