Even ‘orthodox’ ?!

ABC News has a story by a Robert Marquand, dateline Munich and Tubingen, “Pope Benedict XVI’s 30-Year Campaign to Reassert Conservative Catholicism.” Opening sentence:

In the past 30 years, the Vatican has moved strongly to reassert the authority of a traditional, even orthodox Roman Catholicism – to bring the notion of a “one true church” to Europe and then the larger world.

My heavens, Pope Benedict is pushing orthodox Catholicism? Are we all going to have to start believing in the Nicene Creed now? Where will it end??

Just one word – even – shows that someone doesn’t know what orthodox means. We teach such things in freshman theology class. Why do you suppose a leading news service runs this stuff?? I don’t recommend the rest of the article either.

No, this is not the first in a series at PrayTell. If we were to comment on the religious literacy of everyone who writes about religion, we wouldn’t get much else done in life.

No, after this post we’ll return to our sunny disposition and carry on lifting up all the positive things out there.



  1. Just another example of how the media (and most Americans, for that matter) have no idea what the Catholic Church is all about.

  2. I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one thrown by this wording. “Even” seems to suggest that “orthodox” is more “conservative” than “conservative.” What a bizarre turn of phrase.

  3. Chesterton read a report by the secular press that Rome “even allows bearded clergy” among the Greek Catholics and had this reflection on the word “even.”

    “There is in the world, they would tell us, a powerful and persecuting superstition, intoxicated with the impious idea of having a monopoly of divine truth, and therefore cruelly crushing and exterminating everything else as error. It burns thinkers for thinking, discoverers for discovering, philosophers and theologians who differ by a hair’s breadth from its dogmas; it will tolerate no tiny change or shadow of variety even among its friends and followers; it sweeps the whole world with one encyclical cyclone of uniformity; it would destroy nations and empires for a word, so wedded is it to its fixed idea that its own word is the Word of God. When it is thus sweeping the world, it comes to a remote and rather barbarous region somewhere on the borders of Russia; where it stops suddenly; smiles broadly; and tells the people there that they can have the strangest heresies they like …. We might well suppose, therefore, that the Church says benevolently to these fortunate Slavs, “By all means worship Baphomet and Beelzebub; say the Lord’s Prayer backwards; continue to drink the blood of infants – nay, even,” and here her voice falters, till she rallies with an effort of generous resolution, “- yes, even, if you really must, grow a beard.”

  4. We shouldn’t be surprised when the media picks up usages like this. The most conservative of all the churches have tended to assert their (and only their) right to be called real Lutherans, Catholics, Episcopalians, whatever, by using the designator Orthodox.

    In addition, people are familiar with the term Orthodox (and ultra-orthodox) Jews, or might know that the Eastern Orthodox churches are theologically conservative, it’s not surprising that people who didn’t go to Catholic/Lutheran/Methodist/whatever colleges, and didn’t take Theo 101 take those people at their word and think that orthodox means hyper-conservative.

  5. Actually, on further consideration, the Jewish categories of Reform / Conservative / Orthodox probably have the most to do with the use of Orthodox in this way.

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