In June of this year, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press released a new book titled The Choice of Orthodoxy. The book was written by retired Antiochian priest Fr. Daniel Daly. After serving for eleven years in the Catholic Church, Fr. Daly entered the Antiochian Archdiocese with his wife Elfriede in 1980, pastoring several parishes. He now is attached to St. Luke Church in Erie, Col., where his son, Fr. Raphael Daly, serves as pastor. The Choice of Orthodoxy describes Fr. Dan’s journey to Orthodoxy as well as presenting Orthodox Christianity as a choice for those who have lost the church of their childhood.
Tell us a little about your background, and how you became interested in the differences between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions.
I grew up in a small town outside Detroit, Mich., where I attended the local Catholic parish and school. After high school, I served in the U.S. Navy, after which I worked at a secular job for several years. At that point in my life, I made the decision to study for the priesthood.
Most of my seminary studies were at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana, a school which was run by a Benedictine Monastery. During those years, I especially enjoyed the study of Theology.
My years at St. Meinrad were during the 1960s in the era of the Second Vatican Council. During this time, the seminary changed the curriculum, and the program of studies became centered around church history. This not only made me aware of how many of the major events in the history of the Church took place in the East, but also provided me with an excellent method of studying theology. I came to appreciate the Eastern Orthodox Church during those years.
Although I left St. Meinrad with positive feelings about the future of the Catholic Church, it turned out that instead, we were entering into some very troubling years in the 1970s. As a priest, I served in the country of Rhodesia during the 1970s, but because of the upheaval and my own inner journey, I reached a point where I could not continue to serve in the Catholic Church.
Upon returning to America, I was accepted into the Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Philip of thrice blessed memory. I have served in the Archdiocese since 1980. I was also blessed to attend St. Vladimir’s Seminary for a year where I had the honor of having Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Fr. John Meyendorff, and Fr. Tom Hopko as teachers.
Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church claim to be the Church the Christ founded—the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of the Nicene Creed. Do you find that this is confusing to people looking into historic Christianity as they try to sort out these competing claims?
For the first thousand years, there was unity between the Christians of the East and West, although there were several schisms before 1054. Even then, awareness of the 1054 Great Schism was not always evident. The Fourth Crusade (in 1204) and the events that followed it brought about a division that went far beyond theological issues. Constantinople was now politically dominated by a western bishop and a western emperor.
In the subsequent years, East and West each had their own histories; the Western Church with the rising papacy and Protestant “Reformation,” and the East with the domination by the Ottomans and Islam.
Even in the years of bitterness, both Churches acknowledged the validity of the sacramental life of the other. Differences stilll exist between the Orthodox and the Catholics, though in some ways things have become less hostile.
Aware of the many theological issues raised by theologians, I would simply ask a non-Orthodox Christian this question: Do you believe that the ancient churches of the East, e.g. Corinth, Thessalonica and Antioch, etc., were a part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in the year 1053 and ceased to be so after 1054? On what basis, I would ask? Orthodoxy has remained what it always was, the Church established by Christ.
How did the book come about?
Several years ago, realizing that many members of my own family no longer attended church, I wrote an earlier version of my book especially for them. My intention was to encourage them to return to the Faith. In this book, I introduced Orthodox Christianity as an option for those who felt they could no longer be part of the church in which they were raised.
Eventually, I showed the booklet to several Orthodox friends outside my family. They encouraged me to rewrite the text for a larger audience, given the fact that so many people had either lost the church of their childhood or were searching for the truth about the church.
This new book was accepted by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press and has now been published. I hope that The Choice of Orthodoxy will offer those with no church, as well as Protestant and Catholic Christians, a more authentic understanding of Holy Tradition, based upon the promises of the presence of the Holy Spirit, leading the Church into all truth and remaining with the Church forever.
How do the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church differ in their approaches to Holy Tradition?
Holy Tradition is part of the beliefs of both the Catholic and the Orthodox churches. However, since Vatican Council I in the mid-1800s, the Papacy has grown in authority to the extent that the importance of Holy Tradition has been minimized. This has become very obvious in this era of the post-Vatican II Catholic Church, and it has led to many abuses. Even though the Second Vatican Council explicitly stated the importance of Holy Tradition, in practice this is often overlooked.
How do most Catholics usually view the Orthodox?
During my adult life, both in the Roman Catholic Church and in the Eastern Catholic Church (Byzantine rite), I have observed that there is widespread ignorance of the Orthodox Church on the part of Catholic people, both the laity and the clergy.
Among the Catholic clergy, I have noticed that the tendency is to avoid contact with us. Catholic apologetics have been very much influenced by reactions to the Reformation; yet, the arguments against the Protestants simply make no sense when applied to the Orthodox. I would not say that there is usually overt hostility toward us from Catholics, but rather a lack of awareness of who we are and what we believe.
How do we “make a compelling case for the choice of Orthodoxy” without alienating Western Christians?
To attract Western Christians to Orthodox Christianity, we must simply be who we are. Our parishes should be open to visitors and inquirers. We should offer a table of welcome and information at coffee hour on Sunday, providing people a friendly and informative way to learn about the Faith. Ideally, a priest or deacon should be at that table, but at least it should be staffed by well-informed lay men and women.
Forty years ago, I often heard the lament that we Orthodox only showed up in the food section of the local newspaper. That is clearly no longer the case. The internet can now take us into the homepage of countless Orthodox parishes, which can provide a great deal of information about the Orthodox Church. In many of our parishes, these inquirers are showing up on Sunday morning. The ancient catechumemate is being restored in many parishes.
Let us simply be authentic Orthodox Christians.